Profile: Martine Ainsworth-Wells, marketing and communications director at London & Partners, is taking the capital global

Martine Ainsworth-Wells, marketing and communications director at London & Partners. Interview by Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith.

Martine Ainsworth-Wells seems to be addicted to launching businesses. 'This is my third now,' she says, laughing. 'But you do get a real buzz from it.'

We are sitting in 'Southwark Bridge', a meeting room at London & Partners, the nascent promotional agency for London. The capital's confident, newly appointed marketing director is sitting in front of a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass, with the city as her backdrop.

She appears dwarfed by the panorama of Tower Bridge and the tall, curved City Hall building, but there is nothing fragile about her direct manner and strong eye contact.

London & Partners is a public-private body, formed by the merger of three organisations - Visit London, Think London and Study London - to create a 'single voice' agency to drive foreign business investment, overseas students and tourism to the capital. Ainsworth-Wells is the marketing chief for what Mayor Boris Johnson hopes will be the 'best brand on the planet'.

Pioneering past

Originally hailing from Liverpool - although she says her original accent only emerges after a few drinks, when she is known to swear like she's straight out of Brookside - Ainsworth-Wells' career has been spent largely in media, working across broadcast, print and destination marketing. A work-experience placement at radio station Aire FM, in Leeds, turned into her first job in sponsorship and promotions.

Two years later, Phil Riley, a 'great mentor' and former managing director of Aire FM, poached his protegee to launch Heart FM in London. 'There were about five of us in a room in Holland Park with this dream to take on Capital Radio,' she says. As head of sponsorship and promotions, Ainsworth-Wells helped make Heart FM the most listened-to station in London, a spot it held for three years, bagging a couple of Sony awards along the way. 'We wanted to beat them and we did,' she adds.

Her proudest moment at the station, however, was taking it to Sydney in 2000 as an unofficial media partner for the Olympics. 'Everybody was petrified that we'd get sued, that we weren't the right sort of broadcaster and that we couldn't afford it,' she says. Despite such doubts, it successfully broadcast live to the UK from Bondi Beach.

In 2004, following a spell at broadcast talent, promotions and sponsorship agency USP Group, she was approached by former 'sparring partner' David Campbell.

He had set up Virgin Radio in London the week before Heart FM launched. The competitors got to know each other through work, often by ending up in the same box at concerts, where they jokingly goaded each other about listener numbers.

When Campbell offered Ainsworth-Wells the chance to help kick-start a destination marketing agency for the capital, she jumped at it.

He wanted Visit London to be a 'groundbreaking' organisation, not a 'fuddy duddy' tourist board, but it was his fearless risk-taking that convinced Ainsworth-Wells to take him up on the offer.

'I always admired what he'd done at Virgin,' she says - adding, as evidence of his approach, that 'he hired Chris Evans and we all know what happened there'.

Ainsworth-Wells credits Visit London with turning the city into a cohesive brand that could be marketed both internationally and domestically.

It was this agency that started work on the soon-to-break 'Limited Edition London' campaign back in 2009. Last year, however, the government announced it was axing its £480m settlement to the London Development Agency (LDA), which funded Visit London. So, while there is clear excitement surrounding London & Partners and the challenges ahead, there is no glossing over the fact that the body's formation was a direct result of budget-slashing.

The organisation rose from the ashes of the comprehensive spending review, but with a fraction of its former budget. It has been awarded annual funding of £14m for the next four years from the LDA; the body previously provided £11.4m-worth of funding a year to Visit London alone.

Understandably, Ainsworth-Wells' attention is focused on London & Partners' work ahead. The key challenge, beyond getting the disciplines of tourism, education and business to work together, is to tackle the £375m expected loss to London's economy as a result of the Olympics.

'Displacement is a well-documented issue faced by other host cities, but none of them has done anything about it,' she says. 'People stay away from the city because they think it's a building site and the transport system will be a mess.'

The 'Limited Edition London' campaign has been revived to tackle this very issue. Creative agency RKCR/Y&R was appointed earlier this year to handle the international-facing activity, which is due to launch in September. It advertises a series of events, sporting and otherwise, that can be experienced in London only during the 12-month countdown to the Olympics.

London & Partners will be staging events across all the sectors it covers, although, for now, Ainsworth-Wells is remaining tight-lipped on the details and partner brands. Nonetheless, she does disclose, albeit rather cryptically, that there will be visual identities and logos awarded to the events that 'deliver' on the promise of Limited Edition London, likening London & Partners to the 'curators' of the capital.

Ainsworth-Wells' team will use the Olympics as an opportunity for free advertising on a global scale. Perhaps her most critical task is ensuring all stakeholders are ready to build on the Games' momentum from the moment the closing ceremony ends.

'If we get the PR right during the Games, the job afterwards will be to work with the industry to capture the excitement and book people back into London,' she says.

The future of London & Partners appears assured for the next four years, but at that point the funding could dry up. The determined marketer is unfazed, however. 'The key to the future is in the name of the agency,' she says. 'We have to work in partnership with the industry, making sure we have the offering, expertise and platform that every sector can engage in.'

Ainsworth-Wells has been marketing London for seven years. However, her penchant for launching businesses is unlikely to give her itchy feet anytime soon.

With two major sectors to get to grips with - foreign direct investment and higher education marketing - she is relishing the 'exciting opportunity' the agency presents. 'Usually after this amount of time, I'd say "Right, done that. Next?",' she says. 'We have the opportunity to do so much more.'


1993-1995: Sponsorship and promotions executive, Aire FM

1995-2001: Head of sponsorship and promotions, Heart FM London and Birmingham

Jul-Oct 2001: Promotions manager, Evening Standard, Associated Newspapers

2002-2004: Client services director, USP

2004-2011: General marketing manager, rising to marketing and communications director, Visit London

2011-present: Marketing and communications director, London & Partners


Lives: Kew

Last holiday: Maine

Favourite ad: The Volkswagen Passat ad with mini-Darth Vader