Three Days in the Licensing Hot-House: Reflections on BLE

Posted by Ian Downes on October 23, 2015

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The mannequins have been packed away , the graphics stored and the business cards categorised – it’s a week after Brand License Europe and it is a good time to reflect on what light the show shined on the UK and European Licensing industries. My perspective is as an exhibitor and as an independent Licensing Agency. We were situated on the ground floor of the exhibition hall in a space we have occupied for a few years. My overall impression was that the show is now well established and has reached a maturity that should assure it’s future – for many companies it is a must attend and the hub of their business year.

As I busily dust the display samples I have made a few observations:

1. I think there is a trend in the entertainment sector that the big are getting bigger. The ground floor of the show was dominated by stands from the likes of Warner Bros , Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. They literally dominated the show floor.  These companies have got better and better at marketing themselves and using their media muscle to make an impact. I think the penny has dropped that a business model that links broadcast , promotion , PR and licensing together in a cohesive way is going to make a greater impact. During my time at Fox Kids we saw great benefits in ‘joined up thinking’ and this seems to be the way that companies like Nickelodeon are thinking. This has to be applauded. However it does make it more difficult for independent productions to make an impact. I think this is especially true in the pre school sector. The downside of this for the industry could be less choice available in years to come.

2. Brand License Europe is starting to do what it says on the tin. It is a truly European show – there were numerous visitors from Europe and ‘pavilions’ for markets such as France and Spain. On our own stand we hosted the team who manage Asterix internationally and we welcomed visitors from  most major European markets. I think licensees need to start thinking about European wide business rather than single market deals. Not all properties are international but enough are. I think that all licensing professionals based in Europe need to have a European outlook – that said I think this will mean that properties which are focused on specific countries or have a particular heritage will still hold commercial appeal as one of the core attributes of licensing is the ability to create a unique solution in a market sector.

3. Brand licensing seemed to figure large this year. We have represented brands for a number of years — we have had great success with the Britvic portfolio and more recently with Jammie Dodgers. It is easy to think brand licensing is a new track for the licensing train. It isn’t. In my own experience I worked on the M & M’s brand nearly 20 years ago ! However what is new is that it is now at the forefront of discussions , has grown in stature and is headline news with new signings being made by agencies. I think this is to be applauded as it is a very dynamic part of licensing. I would urge some caution though. It is important that an appropriate skill set is adopted in brand licensing and that there is an acknowledgement that the timelines can be different. I think there is a risk that in the ‘scramble for brands’ some mistakes could be made which may tarnish the sector. I hope the industry can embrace this ‘new’ opportunity in the right way and think long term focusing on brands that have the right make up to be successful in licensing.

All in all I think UBM Advanstar and LIMA can reflect on a show that most exhibitors and visitors will regard as a success. From my point of view, we met a fair amount of retail buyers, new licensees and potential promotional partners but would have liked to meet some more ‘new to licensing’ companies – this is where I think growth can be achieved.

Anyway I’m off to finish the dusting – those Asterix figurines don’t clean themselves……..