Kelvyn Gardner: Why BLE is more important than ever

Until this morning, the sunshine had returned to the UK to remind us of the splendid summer months we enjoyed so recently, just as our attention is becoming fixed on the autumn, as Brand Licensing Europe 2013 beckons.

Regular attendees will be familiar with the somewhat unique ‘buzz’ that there is to BLE. This atmosphere has impressed first timers in recent years, and I expect it to build this time. The show is bigger than ever, more and larger stands throughout, so I reckon the buzz is guaranteed. There are also more non-UK exhibitors once again. I expect this growth to be matched by foreign visitor numbers, too. Just like in any significant London landmark, you will hear all the world’s major languages (possibly even including my own, native Lancastrian) in the halls at Olympia.

With the new brands section on the upper floor we have a dedicated space for licensing businesses that don’t appeal, or solely appeal, to the children’s market. This is a very important development for the show. It reflects the size and importance of brands, and ‘grown-up’ licensing, to our business as a whole.

Companies like Philipps van Heusen and Iconix, with their portfolios of fashion and lifestyle brands, are among the largest licensing businesses in the world, giving the lie to those who think that we are only about kids’ playthings, so with the brands out in force this month we’ll be able to fly that flag all the more vividly. LIMA has been pleased to move our own stand to this new section. We are certainly not abandoning our ‘roots’, but LIMA must be seen to encourage the growth of licensing in all sectors, so being in the midst of this comparatively new movement is the right thing for us to do, and the right place for us to be. Drop in and see us, or come along to my ‘Introduction to Licensing’ seminar at 9.30 each morning at the Licensing Academy.

The main floor of the show will be more varied than ever. To add to the plethora of major household names in entertainment licensing, films, TV, character and all the long-standing sources of commercial IP, we are bound to see an explosion in opportunities from the digital world at BLE 2013. I don’t think that any of us in business today can possibly envisage how consumers will ‘get’ their IP in ten years’ time. We are privileged to be around just as this new world is opening up, bringing threats, challenges and opportunities in (roughly) equal measure. Today’s websites and apps will probably seem as crude to the next generation as black and white TV shows or silent movies, or ‘pong’-style video games, look to us now. Yet for 2013 these are cutting-edge. At last year’s show, I overheard one retailer commenting to a licensor sales pitch that ‘they look seriously only at IP with a TV platform’. I sincerely hope that that person has changed his/her mind since then. TV is still very useful, but conventional broadcasters no longer arbitrate what children (in particular) ‘watch’ given their digital options and time-control power with the use of the likes of YouTube.

A final thought on the whole BLE experience. There are now lots of events happening around the show itself, with many exhibitor parties both on-stand and at outside venues in the evening. LIMA has our Global Networking Party, for instance, one of many chances to meet clients and customers in a relaxed continuation of the formal business day. I’m excited to be going to the launch of the Power List on the Tuesday night. I hope you all, dear readers, get your share of invitations.

The existence of these events adds gravitas to ‘BLE Week’ and helps assert that licensing ‘claims’ West London for a week of its own. Who needs London Fashion Week when you can have BLE? Hope to see you there.

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