How Birmingham 2022 put people at the heart of its marketing to ensure a global event remained local
The Games for Everyone.
A vision for a global event does not have to be convoluted or wordy. It should not need explaining.
Ours was just the four words above - concise, focused but also perfectly encapsulating what had to be at the heart of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
These were our words, born out of a brand and marketing planning exercise that included the widest community brand consultation of any Commonwealth Games. More importantly, they were also the words of the people of Birmingham.
The Games for everyone were the words at the heart of the responses we received as we set about speaking to 2,022 local voices, a figure arrived at not entirely by coincidence. Across the West Midlands’ shopping centres, doctors’ surgeries, village halls, schools and colleges and roadshows we asked people about hopes and fears for the Games and how this global event might impact their own community.
Hearing the community loud and clear
We were told, forcefully at times, that we needed to pull the region together, build on the local pride that already existed, celebrate our diverse communities and empower grass roots organisations.
We were told by the people who know best, the people of Birmingham, that the region had the potential to deliver a spectacular Games, the messaging needed to instill confidence.
Out of this consultation the Games vision and mission was born, and these were to remain central to every brand and marketing activity.
The vision you already know - The Games for Everyone.
The accompanying mission that.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will bring people together, improve health and wellbeing, act as a catalyst for change, help the region to grow and put us firmly on the map.
Turning Vision into Reality
By 2019 we had the vision, then began the task of making it a reality.
Fast forward 12 months to spring 2020 with the first Covid-19 lockdown providing a wholly unexpected challenge. With our detailed campaign planning now well underway, we again sought extensive feedback from local communities, though this time virtually.
Our aim was to find that elusive thing, the neon thread we called it, that would run through all our future campaign activities.
Two Key Groups to Represent
We concluded that two specific local audiences warranted special attention to ensure that the Games was truly representative of the people of the West Midlands.
The younger generation had to be included. Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe with around 40% of the population under 25.
People from diverse communities.
Birmingham is home to people from more than 180 different countries.
Birmingham is youthful and vibrant because of these two groups and the dynamic they create, their impact on the city’s culture, personality and future prospects can’t be underestimated.
It was critical that our marketing activity resonated with them, while also enticing sport fans from across the UK and wider Commonwealth.
Be Bold and Show Home
Both groups also included many with strong opinions.
They told us they wanted the messaging to be bolder, more disruptive, and uniquely Brummie. You must, they told us, be genuinely authentic to the people and stories of the West Midlands.
Our own research also provided another angle, that there were some long-standing negative perceptions of Birmingham to be debunked, some dating back to its industrial past.
There were those who mention that the city was built of grey concrete (think of the old 1960’s library and underpasses), others who suggested that the Spaghetti Junction was less than attractive (you try connecting multiple roads in a city centre and also making it picturesque).
One survey even had the cheek to suggest the Brummie accent was the least loved of all regional dialects. As the youth, those from diverse communities and, indeed every other local might say, well, they can 0121, do one!
Not to worry, the Games was expected to achieve a global audience of more than a billion. We had the perfect opportunity to both shatter misconceptions and also show the Birmingham we knew.
Revealing Birmingham’s ‘untold greatness’
Through this process, a further theme suggested itself - ‘Revealing Untold Greatness’ and this would become a central strand to our storytelling and narrative. Birmingham and its people had so much to be proud of, now was the time to shout this to the world.
The stories we told about were about the people, places, culture and history of Birmingham and the wider West Midlands, celebrating the rich heritage. Messages about the Commonwealth Sport Movement were made relevant to the Birmingham edition.
We did not work alone. There were the voices of so many from Birmingham and the West Midlands that shaped every message, but also a host of local, world class suppliers and local creatives, freelancers, and content creators, who were central to bringing this creative proposition to life as well as a number of specialists from further afield. Each of these companies was integral to the look and feel and delivery of the the Games.
A Games made in Birmingham
The focus on local people and the stories of Birmingham ensured a Games like no other, an event unmistakably ‘made in Birmingham’, a subtle nod to this being the city of a thousand trades.
National and international campaigns were of course essential too, these to achieve tasks as varied as driving ticket sales, promoting free-to-attend events and festivals, engaging fans, helping to recruit volunteers and finding deserving people to feature in the Queen’s Baton Relay. However, the same principles applied here too, the stories local to the West Midlands were central to inspiring those living in every nation and territory across the Commonwealth.
A Lasting Legacy
More than 8 million people reported attending one of Birmingham 2022’s sport or cultural events, including more than 1.5 million ticketed spectators. There were more than 40,000 people applying to be volunteers - this against a backdrop of people being told it was safer to stay home.
The success of the Games is not in doubt, but the Games legacy is every bit as important as the event itself. How will this be judged, and how did we fare?
Birmingham 2022 had the biggest ever digital audience of any Commonwealth Games in history, with more than nine million people using the Games website and App.
The social media impact was huge, with 154 million impressions at Games time across the Birmingham 2022 and Commonwealth Games social channels. Globally there were 60 million public posts throughout the Games to mention Birmingham 2022 and the Commonwealth Games and more than 1 million people joined the fan database ensuring a lasting data legacy for sport in the region and beyond.
Spontaneous awareness of the Games was estimated at 29 million people in the UK, peaking at 80% of those in Birmingham, and prompted awareness - those who knew of the Games after a little reminder - hit a near universal 93% in the West Midlands. This figure rose further still to 97% among priority groups including those from diverse backgrounds.
Thankfully, people also like what they have seen, Birmingham and the West Midland’s stock has risen. Almost two thirds (64%) said the city has shown itself ready to host further major global events and essentially the same figure - 63% - said both that Birmingham had put itself more on the map and that they were feeling more positive about the region.
Perceptions have been shattered and Birmingham has been shown for what it is - a vibrant, youthful creative hub rather than just the home to some grey concrete and a notorious motorway junction.
That, though, is to be a little self-deprecating - another thing commentators picked up on, ours being an area that does not take itself too seriously. Oh, and some even said they loved the Brummie accents!
All in all, Birmingham inspired a bostin Games, one that will live long in the memory and help reshape perceptions of the West Midlands as one part of its legacy.