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Licensing Expo 2021 goes virtual, but it’s full steam ahead for in-person BLE in November

August dateline for Las Vegas show was still “too soon” for majority of the licensing industry, Informa Markets’ Anna Knight confirms.

Licensing Expo will be taking place as a purely virtual event this year, Informa Markets has confirmed, however confidence is high that an in-person Brand Licensing Europe in November will be “the gathering that all of us want”.

Licensing Expo – which had been due to return to Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay in August – will take place virtually from 24-26 August. It will be free to attend and will feature digital brand roadshows, the Licensing University programme (organised by Licensing International), high profile keynotes and the popular Matchmaking meeting service.

Speaking to, Anna Knight, vp licensing at Informa Markets, said that feedback from both exhibitors and visitors was that August was still too soon for an in-person event for the majority of the licensing community. Ongoing restrictions around international and corporate travel, as well as providing people with adequate time to prepare for an event of Expo’s size, were cited as key reasons behind the decision to take it virtual.

“We want to deliver what is needed for the majority of people,” Anna said, “and we weren’t convinced that an in-person event at this time would be connecting the right people. It’s very important to us that everyone has a return on their investment and their time.”

However, it’s full steam ahead on planning for in-person events in Q4, Anna confirmed. A US version of the Brand & Licensing Innovation Summit will take place on 27-28 October in New York City, following on from the much anticipated European virtual summit in June.

Then, 17-19 November will see the return of Brand Licensing Europe to London’s ExCeL (followed by an online event two weeks later, 30 November to 1 December), with Anna and the team confident they can deliver “the gathering that all of us want”.

“When we’re talking to the industry, through both calls and surveys, there is much more confidence around the final quarter,” Anna offered. “Our plans for BLE are continuing; it’s likely it will be largely European but we do know that some of the US contingent will be able to travel in and we’re confident that it will be the gathering that all of us want.”

Indeed, the BLE team is heading to ExCeL next week to see some of the changes which have been made at the venue, and Anna is keen to underline that health and safety will be a priority. “We’re waiting on the results from the government pilot, but we have already made some changes including wider aisles and taking the theatres online to make sure that we’re prepared. It’s very likely that we’ll go contactless to avoid too many touchpoints and we’re also looking to ensure there is enough parking as we feel more people may decide to drive to the venue.”

As for the industry’s annual trip to Las Vegas, it will be back, says Anna: “Licensing Expo will return to Las Vegas from 24-26 May, 2022 and we’re already planning some awesome new editions for that event. Expect more of a BLE experience with themes and activations… it will come back with a bang. In the meantime, make sure that you go to the virtual event in August – it will be a great event and will do as much as it can to replace us getting together. I hope to see you at BLE in November and will definitely see you in May ’22.”

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