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“BLE offers fantastic inspiration for fancy dress licensees and retailers”

The latest in a series of guest columns, BLE event director Anna Knight explains why character and brand extension is so important to the party and balloon business.

“When you think of dress up, what comes to mind? For me, it’s an array of cute kids mocked up as their favourite literary characters for World Book Day. Every March my Facebook feed is flooded with reams of mini Harry Potters, Boys in Dresses and Tigers Who Came to Tea standing proudly or sulkily (delete as appropriate) for their annual front door portrait.

All of these brands have incredibly rich catalogues of material, which is why they have proven so successful in developing powerful and popular licensing programmes and have been embraced by the party and dress-up category.

For example, Amscan has just signed new fancy dress licences with Elmer (author David McKee is holding a meet and greet at BLE) and PJ Masks, while Smiffys has the Roald Dahl licence (which won Best Licensed Dress Up at the 2018 Licensing Awards).

Interestingly, and thankfully, licensed dress-up isn’t just limited to the little people in our lives: there has never been so much choice when it comes to adult costumes and partywear, with an increasing number featuring licences that have crept through from the worlds of film and TV.

Run a quick search online, and you’ll find Smiffys has Mrs Brown, Grease and 101 Dalmatians dress-up outfits, while Rubie’s is selling costumes designed around characters from Deadpool, Batman, Scooby Doo and The Flintstones.

This increase in choice can be attributed in part to the rising popularity of Halloween in the UK. The media started reporting on our love affair with the horror holiday around a decade ago, and now, come October each year, Instagram is bursting with photographs of family pumpkin harvesting. In 2018, UK spending on Halloween products reached £419 million, almost double that of 2013.

The trend for licensing in adult dress-up is also a strategic success story on the part of the studios, as it’s both an additional revenue stream for an IP, and a great promotional tool for upcoming releases and evergreen properties.

BLE offers fantastic inspiration for fancy dress licensees and retailers, especially in our Character & Entertainment Zone, where you’ll find studios and huge brand owners galore, including Viacom Nickelodeon, Mattel, Hasbro, Warner Bros, Universal and Rainbow. And don’t forget a visit to our Beyond the Book and Gaming and eSports activations, either. One thing we are not short on is new ideas.”

BLE is taking place from 1 – 3 October at ExCeL London. Register for free here.

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