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“We have invested in offering more exposure to brands and IP”

With Licensing Expo Virtual due to kick off next week, LicensingSource catches up with Anna Knight, vp licensing at Informa Markets, to get the lowdown.

The countdown to Licensing Expo may look different this year, but that certainly doesn’t mean that Anna Knight, vp licensing, and her team in Informa Markets’ Global Licensing Group are any less busy.

As of 24 June, 139 exhibitors had signed up for Licensing Expo Virtual – which is running from 24-26 August – and close to 200 are expected by showtime. Keynotes have been confirmed, including Pam Lifford and Robert Oberschelp from Warner Bros. Consumer Products, and more will be coming down the line imminently, together with the Licensing University programme and other on-demand sessions taking place during the event.

The License This competition will also be part of Licensing Expo for the first time, with applications already flooding in. And in terms of visitor registrations, these are also off to a strong start, with retailers and licensees among the numbers signing up.

Attendees got access to the platform six weeks before the event, giving them time to browse the exhibitor list and make plans. Video meetings will take place during the three days of the show and, in addition to those, there will be live IP and brand discovery presentations and keynotes, topical case studies and sessions. Post event, everyone will have three months to continue to browse the content and make connections.

It’s fair to say that Informa Markets has learned a lot about hosting virtual events in a short space of time.

“Firstly, the importance of keeping it simple and focusing on what matters most to the customers, which is finding brands to licence and arranging meetings around those brands. This is the number one aim of Licensing Expo Virtual,” says Anna. “We have invested in improving the platform, improving the search functionality and offering more exposure to brands and IPs.”

Virtual or in-person though, the goal of the event remains the same, Anna points out: “To continue to provide business opportunities for our customers, which has always been our mission.”

Looking ahead to 2022, Anna says there are exciting plans already in the pipeline. “Like BLE, we’ll be theming Vegas next year. We’ve already chosen the theme, but it’ll be under wraps for a while yet, needless to say I am super excited about it – personally and professionally. We have done a lot of work over the last two years to create the best event that Licensing Expo can possibly be. One thing we never are is complacent. We know people will expect changes and improvements and that the experience of the live event is what really matters now.

“After getting used to online events over the last 18 months – and they have performed brilliantly as a supplementary tool for continuing to do business during the pandemic – we know that ‘in person’ will really need to step up and it has to be creating an unforgettable experience that people will continue to talk about as well as generating business opportunities for everyone who participates,” she concludes.

BLE is back

Planning is continuing apace for Brand Licensing Europe, with the show due to return to ExCeL from 17-19 November.

“In terms of the in-person event, we are currently working on elements that constitute this year’s theme, which I can’t announce just yet, but I can say it’s very forward looking,” Anna offers. “We will have three activations, one of which is in partnership with Products of Change. The Retail Lounge will be back, and we will be delivering content in-person and virtually to ensure everyone gets the best experience. It’s been two years since we were all together, and we just can’t wait to bring everyone back to BLE.

The team is confident that it will be able to run a very productive and safe BLE, and the reaction from the industry to its return has been positive. Anna explains that where there is hesitancy, it’s more around the uncertainty relating to travel, whether that’s due to in-region or corporate restrictions.

“When it comes to concerns about safety, these are very different to six months ago and I’d say of course it’s a concern, but there is more faith in the concept of live events now and also in our ability to put the required measures in place to ensure a safe event.”

And there’s more good news from Anna … the character parade will also be back: “I’m really looking forward to seeing the return of one of the cornerstones of BLE – I’ve really missed every single one of them.”

B&LIS North America will look to build on the success enjoyed by the European virtual event which saw key industry executives gather over three days in June.
B&LIS North America will look to build on the success enjoyed by the European virtual event which saw key industry executives gather over three days in June.

B&LIS heads to NY

Following the success of B&LIS Europe in June, the event is due to make the trip to the US in October.

B&LIS North America will run in New York on 27-28 October with day one focusing on Trends, Retail & Sustainability, and day two on Content & Digital Transformation.

“I’m excited to see the North American version of the show,” says Anna. “We will have a slightly tweaked agenda that covers trends applicable to that market. But most of all, it will be brilliant to be back in person and benefit from face to face networking again.

“We’re also adding in breakout category roundtables focusing on fashion, sport, food and drink, and entertainment trends, and we’re running several networking sessions including a day one drinks reception. It’s kind of B&LIS Europe plus. And it’s in New York, which is another plus.”

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