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Total Licensing caught up with Anna Knight, SVP Licensing, Informa Markets about the upcoming Expo – the first in-person since 2019!

It’s nearly time for the industry to head to Vegas for Licensing Expo in person, which is very exciting, especially after the last two years. Do you predict this international show as a starting point of the ‘return to normality’?

It’s really exciting. We’ve already travelled to Vegas this year to aid with event planning, and that’s made the prospect of an Expo return very real, which is wonderful. I think, for us, BLE in London was the first step on our journey to a ‘return to normality’ in terms of bringing in-person events back to the global licensing industry. Expo will be another important milestone in getting there.

Compared to where we were two years ago and what I’ve experienced myself in California and through colleagues and customers in other parts of the US, I think we are in a much better place with regard to ‘living with Covid’ and getting back to business despite it. I genuinely feel that we – as individuals, as event organisers and as an industry – have never been better prepared to be unprepared; we expect uncertainty, and we know how to deal with it.

Following on from last year’s successful BLE, what feedback did you receive from attendees and exhibitors about being back face-to-face?

The feedback was amazing; really fantastic. We had comments about what ‘a triumphant return’ it was, also about the volume and quality of retailers present, how everybody just loved being able to get together in a live environment, and how important trade shows are as a critical business driver for the industry.

I was so proud of the job the team did, and of the way the industry pulled together to make BLE happen – our exhibitors, suppliers, partners, speakers and visitors are just awesome.

During the pandemic, you ran successful virtual shows which were very well-attended – do you see a future of a hybrid of physical and digital shows to encompass the truly global virtual nature of business?

There are two very important reasons why face to face is so important to the licensing industry:

1) our exhibitors have told us repeatedly how trade shows sit at the heart of the community and how much easier it is to do business in a face-to-face setting.

2) we all know how sociable this industry is; we need connections, we need to be together.

It’s for these reasons that we are so committed to bringing Licensing Expo back as an in-person event. But we also appreciate that living with Covid means different things to different people and some individuals and businesses aren’t ready or able to meet in person yet. That’s why we ran additional content and networking opportunities on our online platform after BLE, and it’s why we are doing the same post-Expo.

I, personally, believe the future is predominantly face to face but using the online technology we all relied on during Covid to help make our shows more efficient pre-and-post event, be that planning your schedule, watching content on-demand, being able to see who you met at the event etc.

What measures are you putting in place to ensure that all those attending feel safe and comfortable?

While we are still living and working during a pandemic, the health and safety of everyone attending Licensing Expo will remain our number one priority, and this year’s event has been specifically designed to account for varying levels of attendee comfort with a range of options to suit, whether that’s a preference for one-on-one interaction or to maintain physical distance.

All Licensing Expo participants will be required to wear a face mask while indoors at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and present proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test.

Mask wearing will be monitored by the Informa organizing team, who are also recommending that participants take a Covid-19 test before leaving their destination to travel to Las Vegas. These safety rules will be in place regardless of Nevada state mandates. Onsite testing will be available off the show floor at the participants’ expense, and this can be used to enter the show or to fulfil any international or domestic pre-departure testing requirements.

How many exhibitors have you already signed?

We have more over 170 exhibitors already signed with that rising from week to week.

The support we’ve received has been incredible – Paramount, Hasbro, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Mattel, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Consumer Products, Lego, Joester Loria Group, Beanstalk, Buzzfeed, The Pokémon Company, NFL Players Association, Games Workshop, Jazwares, Brandgenuity, Banijay, Epic Rights, BBC Studios, Shell, Peanuts Worldwide and many more – have all committed to being at the show.

The last two years have seen widely shifting consumer behaviours and trends. How will Licensing Expo reflect this?

It has, for sure. Sustainability, digital transformation, experiential and ecommerce are just some of the trends that we’ve seen.

From a sustainability point of view, we are delighted to be working with the amazing Helena and Products of Change once more to offer 121 sustainability clinics and seminar education.

Helena and team will be available throughout the show in one of our new business lounges. The drive to digital will be reflected in much of our seminar content and some of our new exhibitors such as Recur and we’re also looking forward to driving some next-level experiential activations on the show floor for the first time.

On that note, with the theme being ‘location-based experience’, can we look forward to some interactive installations and activations this year?

Absolutely. There’s no better way to showcase LBE than through LBE, so we have big plans to stage interactive installations and activations at Vegas. LBE will also be reflected through content as it’ll be the focus of one of our two show floor keynotes.

I wish I could say more than that at this stage, but I just can’t.

Stay tuned. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

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