Exclusive: Anna Knight on the cancellation of Licensing Expo

Published on: 30th April 2021

The organiser announced yesterday that August’s Las Vegas Licensing Expo will be now be a fully virtual experience. 

Licensing Expo

Anna Knight

Following the news that the August Las Vegas Licensing Expo will be replaced by a digital event this year, Toy World caught up with Anna Knight, vice president, Licensing, Informa Markets, to find out the reasons behind the decision, and what it means for BLE.

What ultimately drove the decision to cancel this year’s event?

Whilst there are definitely some positive signs of recovery, including Las Vegas re-opening for events and tourism, the summer dates for Expo ’21 have proved to be too early for the licensing community, particularly with continued international and corporate travel restrictions in place. Current indications suggest the end of Q3 is the point in time when most companies see that beginning to ease.

Licensing Expo is a showcase of the widest range of licences globally – that’s representation from every property type and every category of manufacturing. Without that range and diversity guaranteed to be on display, it’s also very hard to ensure that we would deliver a return on investment or a return on time for all of our customers.

How will you be replacing the physical show?

Licensing Expo will convert to a fully virtual experience taking place 24th-26th August. Exhibitors and visitors can schedule and host meetings, enjoy on-demand and live content and thought leadership, and search and discover the widest range of properties available for license from anywhere in the world. The core focus of the event will be curated matchmaking and new business opportunities. There will be:

  • Curated matchmaking, enabling brands, manufacturers and retailers to connect – meetings can take place from 7am ET to 6pm PT each day
  • Digital Brand Roadshows, which will bring brand discovery to the forefront, highlighting new, innovative and compelling IP by category
  • The Licensing University programme, which offers education on the foundations of licensing, the most up-to-date issues facing the business of licensing and much more
  • World renowned keynotes
  • Licensing International’s highly anticipated Licensing Excellence Awards, which honour the best licensing programs, retailers and licensees in the business, set to stream live on day one of licensing’s biggest week, 24th August
  • The largest directory of brands available to license in the world

Why do you feel that a virtual event will be able to support the global licensing industry better than a physical one this time round?

Our mission is to ensure that the broadest and most robust cross-section of attendees from retail, manufacturers and brands around the world can come together to do business, and in August, a virtual event is most certainly the most appropriate platform for us to achieve that. We want to ensure we deliver return on investment as well as return on time for all of our customers; ensuring access to the entire licensing community is the only way we can guarantee that. We also believe that the event is not just for people to meet those they already know, it’s also a fantastic platform for new business opportunities and that’s something that has been sorely missed by the industry. Zoom calls and showcases have been happening year-round but they have largely been for existing partners, and we therefore need to create these broader new business opportunities.

Are you still confident that BLE will take place in-person this November?

We are definitely planning for that to be the case, yes. We’ve had wonderful support from exhibitors and attendees alike and we’ll shortly be releasing our 2021 theme and related activations. Mid-November is firmly into the very back-end of 2021 and there is most certainly far more positive sentiment towards the restrictions currently in place being lifted in early Q4.


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