Queen's Jubilee extravaganza provides national lift

Marketers' enthusiasm for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee matched the prevailing national mood, as millions turned out for street parties and tuned in to the four-day celebrations on television.

Big Jubilee Lunch: neighbours celebrate in Norwich
Big Jubilee Lunch: neighbours celebrate in Norwich

With a predicted £823m of Jubilee-related spend up for grabs*, a host of brands sought to cash in and retailers in particular hoped the nation would catch a big dose of feelgood for the four-day weekend.

There was an obvious ‘royal effect’ on The Big Lunch, an annual event to bring neighbours together that first ran in 2009 and this year became The Big Jubilee Lunch.

The community-based initiative, conceived by the Eden Project and partly funded by the National Lottery, was designed to encourage people to organise parties and invite their neighbours could have been made for the occasion.

Organisers estimated six million people took part despite the rain on Sunday (3 June). It smashed its previous record of two million people and rewarded backers MasterCard, Asda and Kingsmill.

TV still able to captivate a nation

The royal celebration also delivered the biggest TV audience so far this year, with 14.7 million viewers (peaking at 16.9 million) tuning into BBC One for Monday night’s concert outside Buckingham Palace.

Featuring Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney, the line-up was not dissimilar to the Golden Jubilee’s Party at the Palace in 2002, but drew 2.5 million more viewers.

The figure supports media agency MPG’s research that found Britain feels more connection with the Queen this time around, and the monarchy has ‘finally got it just right’.

If a national institution did show itself to be out of touch it was arguably the BBC, widely criticised for a lack of gravitas in its coverage of Sunday’s Thames Pageant, but nevertheless watched by over 10 million viewers.

To be fair, it's a tough call doing hours and hours of rolling live commentary as ITV found out on Tuesday when emminent historian and fire-starter, David Starkey, started to attack China and Iran for its "organised fun", quick change of subject in the studio.

The pageant itself was about "decorum and taste" and not "festooning boats with brand names", according to the commercial director of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation talking to Marketing.

Fine sentiments - predictably ignored at the margins by the likes of UKTV, which took the opportunity to hand out branded periscopes marked ‘Thanks for the day off’ to the crowds lining the river.

ITV joined proceedings with coverage of Tuesday’s formal state occasion, attracting 1.7 million viewers and beating its 1.4 million viewers for the same event in 2002. This added to the 4.1 million who still preferred the BBC’s coverage of the day.

Radio may not have had the pictures of the celebrations, but industry sources talking to Media Week suggest it is set for a bumper May thanks to increased spend from supermarkets and other advertisers around the Jubilee, and ahead of the Euro 2012 football championship.

Not wanting to miss out on the occasion The Times and Sunday Times websites temporarily  opened the gate to their online paywalls for the first time for readers. 

According to Media Week's sources, they secured 6,000 new registrations and The Times also lifted its average print circulation by 120,000 copies on Monday with a souvenir edition that it took to the streets to sell. It is unlikely to be the last time News International opens up its own paywall.

Meanwhile, in the traditional print side of the press market, pages and pages were set aside to mark the occasion throughout the tabloids, mid-market and quality newspapers. After months of depressing socio-economic news, both home and abroad, editors seemed to relish the change of pace.

Monarch rules British aisles

The Jubilee encouraged punters to spend too, with Waitrose claiming its best ever weekly sales outside Easter and Christmas, up 19.8% on the same time in 2011.

Other supermarkets are yet to provide sales figures, but were aiming for a big judging by their investment in one-off Jubilee-related ads – step forward Tesco’s 1950s-style black and white TV spot and Morrisons street-party-in-a-store effort.

Three supermarkets expressed interest in partnering The Big Jubilee Lunch, according to the event’s sponsorship agency Phar Partnerships.

Asda secured the deal, offering organisers the chance to win £250 to spend on food for the big day – an idea not dissimilar to Co-operative Food’s ‘win £100 for your street party’ offer in April.

Sainsbury’s ploughed a different furrow by sponsoring the Diamond Jubilee Beacon celebrations on Monday, a Jubilee Family Festival in Hyde Park on the Saturday and Sunday, as well as the Thames Pageant.

Brands of hope, and glory?

But whichever supermarket sold the most commemorative tea-towels didn’t matter for the food and drinks brands on the shelves – their dilemma was how best to flaunt a connection to the big event.

American snack M&Ms brought out a limited edition red, white and blue pack, defusing the opportunism with an ad featuring its Yellow M&M character trying to pass himself off as a Brit.

Kellogg’s adopted packaging from 60 years ago while Marmite became Ma’amite, Kingsmill became Queensmill and Kit Kat became Brit Kat. Kingsmill had become a partner of the Big Jubilee Lunch a year in advance, according to Phar Partnerships' executive Ian Tussie.

Tussie told Brand Republic: "Big Jubilee Lunch sponsors were able to align with the Jubilee in a more authentic way and to tell a story unlike brands that had quirky last-minute activity. Whilst memorable and eye catching it didnt have the kudos that say Kingsmill had from being an official part of the Big Lunch."

The event was a natural fit for food and drinks brands, and duly enjoyed support from Champagne Lanson, Douwe Egberts, Buxton mineral water and Carling.

Levels of support varied, with Carling claiming ahead of the event it was going to provide 300,000 bottles of beer while Buxton said it had given 1,000 bottles of water to street parties in its home town and one in Brixton.

*according to a Moneysupermarket.com survey

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