Magazine article Marketing

Does the Dome Measure Up When It Comes to Corporate Branding?

Magazine article Marketing

Does the Dome Measure Up When It Comes to Corporate Branding?

Article excerpt

The Dome is now open for business with 12 million people expected to visit over the next year. But what are the sponsors, which have paid millions of pounds to be associated with it, getting for their money? Alexandra Jardine reports on the marketing and branding in the Dome

As the Millennium Dome opened its doors to the public this week, its corporate sponsors were among those waiting eagerly and nervously for the country's reaction.

For the big brands involved, including Tesco, British Airways, Boots, Marks & Spencer and BSkyB, the initial success of the Dome is important.

But, having delved deep into last year's marketing budgets for the project, these companies will be looking at the longer term to see whether sponsorship of the Dome has been a worthwhile exercise in brand promotion.

So just how much branding has the Dome allowed? A preview visit revealed that branding is in evidence, but with varying degrees of strength and subtlety.

There are some obvious ones - we emerge from North Greenwich tube to the sight of a McDonald's restaurant and the 'Skyscape' - the cinema venue, playing a Blackadder film. As we file in, an introductory screen reminds viewers of Sky's sponsorship for ten minutes before the show.

Branded outlets

Inside the Dome itself, several big brands are already in evidence - Coke and Wall's have branded outlets in their capacity as sponsors. Somewhat disconcertingly, there is even marketing in the toilets, where a panel on the wall explains that Thames Water has sponsored the Dome's environmentally friendly water recycling system.

In the sponsored 'zones', branding has mostly been kept to a minimum, at least on the outside. Notices about the sponsors and company logos are on noticeboards near the entrance or exit of the zone.

Some are more prominent than others - around the Journey Zone video screens proclaim the address of Ford's special 'Journey' web site, leaving us in no doubt who was sponsoring this one.

Inside, sponsors have taken different approaches. In the Marks & Spencer-sponsored Self Portrait zone, which depicts our national identity, there is little evidence of M&S' involvement.

Well, perhaps if you look carefully at the 'Andscape', the revolving wall displaying quintessentially 'British' items, you might notice some M&S knickers or convenience foods, apparently suggested by members of the public who see M&S as fundamental to British life. However, it certainly isn't overt.

According to M&S Dome spokeswoman, Tracey Nelson, this was deliberate: "We didn't want our zone to be an ad for the company - the Dome is a national exhibition, not a trade show."

Instead, she says, M&S is linking its sponsorship of the Dome to a cause related marketing initiative. It is funding the Millennium Experience's Children's Promise appeal, which asks all workers in the UK to donate an hour's earnings to children's charities.

Charitable push

M&S is using the Dome to host a day for the charity on February 29, giving away 2000 free tickets to children and holding a charity auction.

There are less obvious links to Children's Promise inside. One feature is listening posts, where visitors can hear the hopes of British children for the future. …

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