Knight’s watch: A look at BLE 2017’s offering

Bart Simpson is handing out free donuts and Superman is on hand to meet and greet fans. Yep, you guessed it, it’s that time of year again where the licensing industry will descend upon London’s Olympia to get the lowdown on all manner of things licensing, from toys and food to gaming and sport. 

Kicking off this October comes the annual Brand Licensing Europe show, which will pack over 40 new exhibitors into the London grounds, where key industry professionals including licensees, licensors, trade press, retailers and buyers will all join together to clap their eyes on some of the latest innovations within the bustling licensing industry.

It’s an exciting time for anyone involved, as LIMA recently revealed its Annual Global Licensing Industry Survey, citing that the global licensing industry is now worth $262.9 billion, a 4.4 per cent growth from the previous year, with character and entertainment continuing to be the top property type, accounting for $118.3 billion in retail sales, a 45 per cent share of the market.

Meanwhile, Western Europe including the UK, Germany and France saw revenues total $52.4 billion, a 20 per cent share of the total market. It’s an industry that keeps getting bigger and everyone wants a slice. 

“The future remains promising. However, change is afoot,” Anna Knight, brand director of Brand Licensing Europe, tells ToyNews.

“I believe we’ll see more consolidation in the traditional entertainment industry but new brands will take their place – this happens time and time again and does breathe new life into the licensing world.” 

Certainly the industry is evolving to meet consumers’ needs and with 2017’s show just around the corner, no doubt key execs will get the opportunity to witness the developments first hand, by meeting licensors, licensees, retailers and more throughout the three-day event. 

“It’s genuinely one of the best shows I’ve ever worked on because the people are some of the brightest and most creative, and the brands are diverse and interesting,” Knight continues.

“As always, I’m looking forward to seeing what our new exhibitors bring to the table and how our returning brands are showcasing new IPs or new merchandise from their evergreen properties.” 

We’ll see more consolidation in the traditional entertainment industry.

Anna Knight, BLE

Game on

Changes in this industry are already upon us, with this year’s show ramping up its gaming content, with new exhibitors and the introduction of a dedicated Gaming Activation Area.

According to LIMA’s survey, global retail sales of licensed merchandise within software, video games and apps spiked by eight per cent from 2015 to 2016 and are predicted to continue growing over the next five years.

A creative and lucrative market, gaming has much to offer the licensing scene with named franchises such as Call of Duty, Dark Souls and Overwatch all lending themselves to licensed merchandise from apparel to stationery – it’s a growing space that cannot be ignored. 

“It’s BLE’s responsibility to support all parts of the industry and shine a spotlight on the ones that are showing growth,” reveals Knight. 

“It remains largely untapped when it comes to licensing thanks in part to a lack of understanding about the end user, the products and the potential. We want to educate around the possibilities for licensees and retailers as gaming remains one of the most creative, exciting, forward-looking and lucrative entertainment markets in the world.” 

Gaming will also be a central focus within this year’s seminars, as GfK will put an emphasis on the trends and opportunities in video games, while a gaming keynote panel featuring experts from Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe and Paladone will be on hand to dismiss some of the myths that currently exist around gaming licensing.

Knight continues: “We’re hosting over 30 sessions across two seminar theatres and the themes covered will range from trend updates on subjects like fashion, lifestyle, toys, gaming and sport, to European focused sessions around the impact of Brexit and how to launch a pan European licensing programme.” 

Plus, with the likes of Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, Ubisoft, Capcom, SEGA, King, Rovio and many more influential gaming brands set to exhibit, BLE 2017 is on hand to deliver a unique gaming experience for everyone in attendance this year. 

Despite increasing its gaming offering, BLE is also welcoming a raft of new exhibitors to the show floor, as well as welcoming other brands back after a few years away, including Emoji, Juventus, Multera Ltd, Nudinits, The Point 1888, Those Licensing People, Traditional Japan, Tulipop and more. 

Retail innovation

Licensed goods are now making an impact on a whole host of retailers, from toy stores and apparel outlets to cinemas, which BLE is tapping into through its Retail Mentoring Programme. A CPD accredited course that runs from May to October, retailers can take part in a series of modules and seminars, to equip them with the tools they need to build a diverse and engaging licensed offering.

Each year, we aim to diversify, yet further, the types of retailers we have on board to try and spread the licensing message as far as possible.

Anna Knight, BLE

Retail is at the forefront of the industry, taking product directly to fans, and with over 45 delegates from a swathe of retailers, including Toymaster, M&Co, Morrisons and Odeon, already signed up it’s clear that the retail scene, from independents to grocers, are taking licensing seriously and are recognising the opportunities this industry can offer. 

“It’s important because it shows that the programme can add value to all types of retailer and it also shows that these retailers are taking licensing seriously and want to ensure that those new to licensing are equipped with all the information they need to take advantage of the opportunity,” enthuses Knight. 

“Each year, we aim to diversify, yet further, the types of retailers we have on board to try and spread the licensing message as far as possible.”

Of course toys are an integral function to licensing as a whole, with TV shows, films, games and more all inspiring toy launches. For example, this year alone we have witnessed Nitro Circus join forces with Hexbug for a roll out of toys while The Pokémon Company International has gained a new master toy licensee in Wicked Cool Toys, which is sure to mean new and creative products to tie-in with the franchise’s resurgance in popularity. 

To cement this continued growth, BLE has joined forces with body for toy and game designers, Mojo Nation, who will host The Toy & Game Innovation Zone during the show. Guests will get to see some of the most successful examples of licensed toys and games launched within the last 12 months, as well as previewing some of the upcoming new titles for Christmas 2017 and beyond.

And now that Toymaster has joined the Retail Mentoring Programme, a host of new independents can now expand their licensed toy portfolio, embracing the opportunities these toys can bring to any retailers’ store. 

It certainly looks like 2017 has a lot to offer, but it doesn’t stop there for Knight and the team who are already working on 2018’s much anticipated show. 

“From the new exhibitors and new experiences at the show, to the great licensees and retailers already registered to attend, I think 2017 will be a fantastic edition of BLE," concludes Knight. 

“It doesn’t stop at 2017 though – we’re already hard at work on figuring out what to launch in 2018.”

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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