“Licensing provides a route for retailers to both differentiate themselves from their competition and to reinvigorate product categories,” says Jessica Blue, event director of Brand Licensing Europe. “Licensing is becoming more and more important to the High Street retailer. Stores that did little or no licensing back in the early 2000s are now fully embracing it and stocking extensive ranges.”
Indeed, in 2011 the show’s retail audience grew by 22 per cent and, as the 2012 event looms on the horizon, Blue and her team are focused on building on that number.
And it’s not just retailer figures which are up – the 2011 event was hailed as the biggest and busiest in BLE’s history, with 252 companies exhibiting and total attendance reaching 7,431.
At the time of writing, there were over 250 brand owners signed up to exhibit at this year’s show, increasing by two or three every week. Big names such as Warner Bros Consumer Products, Disney and DreamWorks have all confirmed a presence on the showfloor, while around a quarter of the exhibitors will be participating in the show for the first time. These include BinWeevils, MGA Entertainment, Endemol, Sony Computer Entertainment Group and The British Library to name just a few.
Blue explains that Advanstar has been able to extend BLE into the newly renovated West Hall at Olympia this year, meaning it has grown the show by 25 per cent. As well as making room for more newcomers, the additional space has also allowed returning exhibitors to take larger stands.
So, after such a strong 2011, how is Advanstar looking to build on this in 2012?
“By developing all areas of the show and responding to the needs of the industry,” Blue tells ToyNews. “For example, the Retail Mentoring Programme has now tripled in size since its launch three years ago, with more retailers on board this year than ever before.
“We have also been working hard to secure the very best speakers for the Licensing Academy, following in the footsteps of some of the huge industry figures who have participated in the past. A big announcement will be made shortly about this.
“We are collaborating with three key knowledge partners for the first time this year. NPD Group is a leading global provider of consumer and retail market research solutions for a wide range of industries, and Planet Retail is the world’s leading retail analyst firm. GfK Group is one of the largest market research companies in the world and joins the show for the first time this year. All three organisations will contribute to the event’s content programme, participate in a press event on the first morning of the show and in panel discussions at the Licensing Academy.”
On top of the new additions, the popular Screening Suite will be returning, alongside the international pavilions and the Retail Buyers Centre. License This, the Dragons’ Den-style competition which offers those with brand new creative concepts the chance to break into the industry, is also back.
NEW LOOK AND FEEL
Advanstar has also given the show a bit of a makeover, with a new look and creative design.
Blue explains: “We wanted to reinvigorate the look and feel and reflect the growth that the show has seen over the past five years. We feel that this year’s creative encompasses everything that BLE has to offer and will grab the attention of visitors, encouraging them to register.”
Advanstar is working closely with key partners – including ToyNews and sister title Licensing.biz – to promote the event, and is running a direct mail campaign and two PR drives: one for trade press and a separate campaign targeting national, business and broadcast media to raise awareness of the industry as a whole. Last year, the show garnered coverage on BBC Breakfast, Sky News and BBC Radio 5.
Blue is the first to admit that the show faced its challenges when she joined Advanstar back in 2005.
The team spent a huge amount of time listening to the needs of exhibitors and visitors, and really worked hard to keep the show aligned with the industry.
Seven years later, the event is widely praised by both exhibitors and visitors alike (see the ‘Industry Views’).
So, what would Blue like to ultimately accomplish by the time the doors of Olympia close after the three-day event?
“To walk away from the show knowing that our visitors and exhibitors have achieved what they set out to do,” she simply concludes.