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Countdown to BLE 2024: “There will be something for everyone at BLE this year”

In the first of a regular new series, Ella Haynes, BLE event director, takes us through the build up to this year’s show and the celebration of 25 years.

I’ve not long arrived back in the UK from Licensing Expo after eight days in Vegas. It was a standout event, and I couldn’t be happier with how delighted our attendees are with their experiences of the show. We have had the most incredible feedback from exhibitors about the quality of visitors and the levels of conversations everyone had. For three full days, the booths were consistently busy and, by 10am on day one, the grapevine was buzzing with news that deals were already being done.

Our goal for Licensing Expo 2024 was to elevate the experience and education for new attendees, while at the same time maintaining the high quality of visitors, we attracted in 2023 providing everyone with critical opportunities to spot new trends and innovation.

The numbers are testament to how well we did: over 12,000 international attendees and 5,000 brands were at Expo, which really highlights the depth and breadth of licensing on display. A massive 106 exhibitors were new to the show, and we enjoyed an incredible 35% uplift in retailers – domestic and international.

Sadly, the Expo high now needs to be parked in place of serious prep for BLE given we are less than four months out. Sounds scary, but the good news is we’re in really good place. We have 176 exhibitors already confirmed, including 14 first timers. Our Licensee Pavilion, which debuted last year, is already sold out and we have launched a new Service Provider Pavilion for businesses providing valuable support.

This year, BLE is going to look amazing – really creative with lots of inspiring brand-led areas and experiences that I can tell you about shortly. And then – of course – the big thing for us this year is celebrating our 25th anniversary, which is quite the milestone. It’s important that this is a celebration of the community and not just BLE; a retrospective on how the industry has evolved, and a celebration of the individuals, companies and brands that have evolved with the show. We will be unapologetically spotlighting the BLE OGs.

Of course, following Expo and last year’s BLE, the bar is high but we’re good with that. We achieved record numbers of European attendees in 2023, including a 28% uplift in attendees from France, Italy, Spain and Germany and a 28% increase in retailers (a record for the show). And the 9,649 attendees travelled to London from over 100 different countries. The exhibitor list was also markedly international with incredible brands from Europe, including Cyber Group Studios, Asterix, 24h Le Mans, The Smurfs, Tour de France, FC Barcelona, Sanrio, HARI International and many more.

But BLE is not just serving the current community, we are very aware that we have a role to play in bringing new blood to the show each year. For those new to licensing, we are invested in helping them be better prepared for the conversations they want to have at the show – we have a free licensing handbook, the first module of our Licensing Unlocked educational product is also free, and then at the show we’ll have our 101 sessions and show floor tours, which is key to helping them connect with peers and start to build a community from the off.

For those who haven’t even considered licensing as a potential career, we will continue to work with local schools and universities to bring students to BLE on day 3 to explain what career opportunities the industry has to offer them.

So, from teenagers to the OGs, I think it’s pretty safe to say there will be something for everyone at BLE this year and I hope you join us to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

Brand Licensing Europe takes place 24-26 September 2024 at ExCeL, London and visitor registration is now open.

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