The BLE Blog

A brief history of BLE

Spring has certainly sprung, and here at BLE HQ we are busy preparing for our 17th annual show taking place this October. Who can quite believe that it has been 17 years since BLE’s incarnation in 1998 at a hotel with a handful of exhibitors, to a show which now attracts over 280 exhibitors and more than 7,000 visitors from over 60 countries?

The steady growth and success of the event each year is a strong reflection of the industry as a whole; and these are undoubtedly exciting times with phenomenal examples of licensing in action almost everywhere you turn. The much anticipated Star Wars movie, one of the most successful franchises in history, hits our screens in December. Fifty Shades of Grey has boosted licensed sales of lingerie, and a Star Trek area is set to open this year at Spain’s Paramount Theme Park.

It has certainly been a busy few years in an industry that changes pace and tack at a constant rate, so here’s our own snap shot of the last 17 years:

1. License Global’s debut cover in 1998 featured Madonna and Michael Jordan going head to head for licensing supremacy.

2. In 2000 Britney Spear’s Play Along dolls were chart toppers in the toy’s category.

3. The following year the Harry Potter franchise began to take shape.

4. In 2002 it was estimated the industry was worth £119bn per year and Marketing Magazine described a four year old BLE as “an essential date in the industry’s calendar.”

5. By 2003 new categories started to emerge in their own rights, such as furniture, live events, food, homewares and electronics.

6. By 2004 the biggest licensing category was toys, followed by clothing, and the industry was worth an estimated £2.7bn per year.

7. The International Pavilion was added to the show features in 2005.

8. In 2006 BBC Worldwide exhibited Doctor Who at BLE– to become the fastest growing toy property that year.

9. In 2007 the show rebranded to include ‘Europe’ in its title to reflect its growth and switched from Earls Court to Olympia’s Grand Hall to allow for more features.

10. 2008 saw the introduction of apps, now a staple of most licensing programmes, and 2009’s event featured an interactive game zone for the first time.

11. In 2010 BLE was extended from a two-day to a three-day event, due to increasing demand and introduced the Retail Mentoring Programme and License This! Competition.

12. In 2012 the event broke all records with a 23% increase in total visitors.

13. For the first time in 16 years a new floorplan was introduced in 2013 to reflect the show’s growth and we celebrated the most successful event so far with record numbers of visitors.

14. BLE 2014 was officially the biggest event to date, with more floor space occupied than ever before.

So as we finalise floorplans, confirm keynote speakers, and map out the next seven months, we can’t wait to see what twists and turns the industry takes over the next year. Next stop, Vegas!

With thanks to License Global for its statistics.

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