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What went down by the Docklands?

Licensing International’s Sharon Weisman gives her run down from the show floor of BLE 2019.

What looks like Javits from the outside, seems like Licensing Expo from the inside and has massive growth potential?

Brand Licensing Europe 2019, of course!

At this point, there is no value in comparing the ExCel Brand Licensing Europe to the shows which took place at Olympia.

I was part of the team that shifted Licensing Expo from New York to Las Vegas. It took a while to accept, but now no one is looking back.

With the move to ExCeL there is absolutely no complaint that has been made that can’t be addressed by Informa and Licensing international, and solved by next year.

The only thing we still need to figure out is where is the London EyeCandy (otherwise known as the new Hand & Flower).

Three key take backs from the show:

The BLE show floor make-up resembled Vegas in a way. However, it was actually great not to see ridiculously huge stands. After all, the booth-pissing-match (British translation: Stand-Willy-Waving) doesn’t correlate with how healthy a company’s licensing business really is. The important thing is that everyone was hustling Dolly Parton style… from 9-5.

Speaking of 9 to 5, the most valid points made:

  • Lots of people scheduled 5pm meetings but were asked to leave as the show floor closed at that time (what a great problem to have, and easy to solved).
  • The absence of stand numbers/signage on the floor (and the fancy open booths didn’t have them on their structure either) #easyfix
  • The show floor should be merchandised better (neighborhoods/sections) #easyfix
  • My Jew-Crew – it did not bruise my ego to find out (once again) that attendance wasn’t dramatically affected by the overlap with the Jewish holiday (+3%). The expo’s new management cares deeply and is very sensitive to this issue. I expect attendance to sky rocket next year.

 

The Venue:

Amenities were superior – accessible, more options, shorter line and significantly less expensive. I’ve heard people crying about the venue running out of food or accepting cash only on the first day. However, these issues were resolved the following day.

Heck, I’m so happy there’s a Starbucks (I have heard Americans refering to it as the ‘Sanctuary’) offering Oat Milk Lattes for high maintenance pains such as yours truly.

Commute:

I experienced lots of ‘learning moments’ on the first day of the show. Things to consider: not landing at Heathrow, taking an Uber from the Jubilee station instead of the DLR on rush hours, and staying closer to the venue (I loved the Moxy… but I’m also the size of the Mr. Men characters and live out of my suitcase…).

Commute options will be addressed for next year – from a direct line to shuttles.

Difuzed was among a number of licensees taking stands this year.
Difuzed was among a number of licensees taking stands this year.

10 Trends:

Licensees exhibiting – and why not? It shows the full spectrum of our industry: from IP to CP. Tangible merchandise completes the circle along futuristic IP pitch decks. Licensees can showcase their lines, coordinate meetings with retailers and brand owners and support their licensors.

In contrast to the stimulating manufacturer’s stands, however, there are agents… I am going to get serious heat from my agent friends on this, but I’m going to call out most big agents for not doing their clients justice, aggregating a bunch of logos on what ends up looking like the saddest stands on the floor. This clashes with all the hard work they put into creating licensing programmes for amazing brands. ABG (brand management), I’m looking at you, too… I felt like I should take a number and wait to get my root canel at the stand.

With that said, shout out to IMG Europe for spinning off three additional separate stands: Fabacus (a new service which looks to streamline communications between its clients and licensees), Jeep and UEFA Euro 2020.

Ever(er)green? My definition for an evergreen was always a brand that was able to engage at least two generations. An IP parents can’t wait to introduce to their kids (and then grandkids). These brands possess qualities that stand the test of time and keep on evolving in order to resonate with the new generations.

BLE 2019 made a point for brands having a longer shelf-life in Europe (Thomas, Moomin, BarbaraPapa, Smurfs, Peanuts, Care Bears, Pink Panther and more).

Food fashion was a sub-trend including Mentos collaboration with Sanrio.
Food fashion was a sub-trend including Mentos collaboration with Sanrio.

Fashion – collabs by Coca-Cola, Peanuts, Hello Kitty, Chupa Chups, National History Museum and FatFace and more were highlighted at the show.

But let’s be honest now, these aren’t the mainstream fashion brands licensing beyond their core business. These are mostly timely/limited deals by lifestyle/character brands with designers or luxury brands orchestrated with two goals in mind: capturing quickest ROI and appealing to new generations.

The mass fashion brands, that significantly grew their business via licensing, are under-indexed at the show, because they are in a Pilates class right now, figuring out how to strengthen their core. Therefore, it was no surprise when Informa announced the theme for BLE 2020… yep, you guessed it… fashion.

Another sub-trend that is on fire is the FF or FSquare = Food Fashion!

Mentos x Sanrio, the White Claw Craze in the US, McDonalds RFP (may the best agent win), Brand Central plans for Heinz, licensees wanting fast food and snack brands for apparel lines…

The Arcade acted as a central focus point on the show floor.
The Arcade acted as a central focus point on the show floor.

Gaming – PowerStation Studios did a stellar job creating centralised excitement in the middle of the ‘show universe’. This activation centre, coined The Arcade, functioned as the heart of the show, pumping people in and out from all corners of the show floor – enabling exhibitors and attendees to engage, play and experience. #StandonSteroids

There is no wonder the Licensing International Global Survey found that gaming is the licensing category with the most dramatic revenue increase in the past couple of years.

Participants included Bioworld, SEGA, Bandai, Activision, Disguise, Sybo, etc.

Sustainability – it’s on everyone’s agenda. Hopefully, you all caught the session discussing this topic at the Licensing Academy. While most of the conversations tackle how our industry increases awareness and steps into the sustainability game in the future, companies like Hasbro are championing the strategy by phasing out all plastics used to package its toys and games by the end of 2022.

Diversity and inclusion – is on every brand’s mind. Cause-based marketing is key in order to win over new generations. The non-binary Mattel doll, more neutral colours by licensees, retailers requesting merch that would appeal to women in gaming, as well as merchandise by TikTok GIRL gamer influencers.

Licensing International formed the first Diversity and Inclusion committee spearheaded by Jamie Stevens @ Sony Pictures, committed to actionable objectives that will lead to change.

Buyers buying more than product – buyers being more dependent on the licensing execs to get the right products, talent and activations into the stores.

The Social Store, Attachment London, ABG, WMG and others have been reporting helping their retailer partners attaching talent promotions to the merchandise and creating experiential opportunities.

Fabacus is among the companies which has recognised the need for collecting data in the industry.
Fabacus is among the companies which has recognised the need for collecting data in the industry.

Data – licensors are cracking down on licensees as well as agents for reports and analysis of the right data. Collecting data regarding products will help better forecasting and fulfilment, creating superior product and more targeted lines.

No wonder companies like Flowhaven, Fabacus, Octane5, Brainbase and more have recognised a need and are multiplying like rabbits. Moreover, I met with many more companies at the show this year that are offering brands a partnership beyond licensing, and one of the main selling points of an app-based partnership is the data collection.

Stretching the definition of relationships – like in real life, where once being monogamous meant ‘one partner for life’, and now it just means not having more than one partner at the same time, long-term relationships with massive tails and huge MGs aren’t as popular as they used to be when it comes to fashion entertainment brands.

Collabs, share-revs, investing time and money in high profile partners for a limited edition or special line… everything flies in order to break through the clutter.

‘OoO Su Cuuuuuute’ – similar to what we’ve gathered from the Vegas show, the increase in Asian influence was evident at BLE 2019: Kakko, Korean Pavilion (Pink Fong, Baby Shark), Rio Visual, Tuba for Lavra, LINE (+BT21), Pusheen, Anime/Crunchy Roll (which shacked up with its new squeeze, Viz).

Sharon Weisman is vp global business development at Licensing International. She can be contacted on sweisman@licensing.org. She’s also very entertaining on social media, @sharon.weisman.

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