Superbrands case studies: BBC

Originally published in 'Consumer Superbrands' Volume V, March 2003. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

Case study provided by Superbrands.


The twenty first century technological revolution is dramatically changing the broadcasting and media environments, as telecommunications, IT and broadcast media converge.

Digital broadcasting has led to the launch of hundreds of new niche and broad-based entertainment and educational channels. Established broadcasters now face unprecedented competition, with over 40% of homes in the UK now receiving digital channels.

The internet has been another catalyst for radical change and has lead to the creation of global giants, for example, the merger between AOL and Time Warner. 40% of homes have access to the web and broadband services, which offer a much quicker connection speed, now reach 8% of homes.

Interactive and digital television, EPGs (electronic programme guides), WAP phone technology and digitally enhanced video recorders are further providing audiences with more choice than ever before.

The challenge for established and new broadcasters and service providers alike is to ensure brand presence and standout across a broad range of multi-media. The need for relevant, focused and clearly positioned brands and marketing strategies has never been greater.


The BBC has been the most significant British broadcaster for over 78 years and continues to deliver the corporate challenge laid down by its first Director General, John Reith, to educate, entertain and inform.

The BBC has become a national institution, universally recognised for the depth, breadth and quality of its award-winning news, sport, drama, comedy, natural history, music, online and factual programming.

Todays BBC has a tri-media offering, including TV, Radio and Interactive services; with an emphasis on connecting with its audiences.

The BBC caters for audiences of all ages and ethnic backgrounds in every part of the country. Its response to devolution and regional diversity has moved beyond news and political reporting to entertainment and factual programming. For example, increased investment in local television output and 37 Where I Livecommunity websites across England form a major expansion of the BBCs local internet presence.

In 2001 BBC One overtook ITV as the most-watched terrestrial network. In addition, during 2001/02, BBC television and radio programmes and web content won a string of major national and international awards. These include; 22 Gold Awards at the Sony Radio Academy Awards, ten BAFTA Television Programme Awards; seven BAFTA Television Craft Awards, six BAFTA Childrens Film and Television Awards, four British Comedy Awards, four Golden Rose of Montreux Awards and three Emmy Awards.

The BBC is the broadcaster that audiences turn to at times of national significance. During the 2002 World Cup, audiences overwhelmingly turned to BBC One for all of the crucial England matches. For news of the Queen Mother's death and coverage of her funeral, again the BBC was the broadcaster of choice for three-quarters of the audience. And almost half the population watched some of the Queens Jubilee coverage from the BBC. When whole communities came under the unprecedented threat as the blight of foot-and-mouth disease destroyed thousands of livelihoods in 2001, BBC local radio stations became the focal point around the clock for news.

The BBC World Service is stronger than ever, reaching over 150 million homes. Its global presence enhanced by BBC America and BBC World channels, ensuring there is a major British voice in an increasingly global media market.


Formed in October 1922, the British Broadcasting Corporation was originally launched as a commercial radio broadcaster. Five years later it received its Royal Charter, establishing it as the UK's public service broadcaster.

The BBC now offers a range of multi- media broadcast services providing not only groundbreaking programming but pioneering technological and broadcasting innovation to all its licence fee payers.

From its early years the BBC began creating enduring institutions, such as the time pips which have been used on the hour, every hour since 1924. 'The Week in Westminster', launched in 1930, is still broadcast weekly on BBC Radio 4.

1932 saw the launch of the Empire Service (a forerunner to today's BBC World Service) and the BBC's first major live outside broadcast was of George VI's coronation in 1937.

During World War II the BBC established itself as the voice of the nation in the UK and of resistance in Europe, marking key historical moments, including the declaration of war by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, as well as King George VI's and Winston Churchill's speeches to the nation.

BBC television began broadcasting with the launch of its first channel in 1939. Transmissions were closed down during the War, but resumed in 1946 and continued to capture moments of national and historical significance with the transmission of live pictures of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation from Westminster in 1953 and man's first steps on the moon in 1969.

The BBC's second television channel, BBC Two, was launched in 1964. Full colour television transmissions, again pioneered by the BBC, began in 1967, together with the launch of BBC Radio 1 and local radio. Other major developments included Ceefax (1974), breakfast television (1983), Nicam Stereo (1980s) and the introduction of BBC World Service television in 1991.

In September 1955, the launch of ITV, a national advertiser-supported channel made up of regional franchises, provided the BBC's first commercial broadcasting rival. This duopoly lasted until the launch of Channel 4 in 1982 and domestic competition increased further in 1997 with the launch of Channel 5, the latest terrestrial player.

The most significant development in the industry, however, has been the explosion of cable and satellite channels, dominated in the UK by BSkyB, launched in 1989.


The BBC's public services are funded by an annual licence fee and carry no advertising or sponsorship. The BBC is committed to providing an innovative and dynamic mix of national and regional programming, some of which would be commercially unattractive to independent channels, in order to meet the requirements of its audiences.

The BBC makes use of its archive and brand portfolio on a commercial basis to supplement the licence fee. This is achieved though programme and publishing sales and commercial joint ventures from which the profit is reinvested into the core licence fee service.

Despite increasing demands on leisure time, the BBC reached 93% of the UK population in 2001/02 in some form. Indeed, its services include two national television channels, BBC One and BBC Two; five national radio stations, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Five Live; 39 local radio stations, and dedicated services for listeners in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Since 1997 it has also launched, six digital television channels; BBC News 24, BBC Choice (relaunched as BBC Three in October 2002), BBC Knowledge (relaunched as BBC Four in March 2002), BBC Parliament, CBBC and CBeebies, as well as three digital radio networks BBC 6 Music, BBC Five Live Sports Extra and BBC 1Xtra. The BBC Asian Network also went digital nationally in October 2002.

BBC World Service radio broadcasts in 43 languages and has a global audience of 150 million people, listening at least once a week. The World Service won the top Sony 2001 award for its coverage of September 11th and Afghanistan.

The BBC's educational role now sits at the heart of its public service remit. The primary challenge is to develop the learning dimension across all BBC output, harnessing new technologies as well as traditional ones, and creating popular and effective forms of learning for twenty first century Britain. Indeed, 10,000 people have gained an NVQ accreditation in internet literacy after completing the BBC's 'Becoming Webwise' online course, developed in partnership with Further Education colleges. 'Skillswise', launched during 2002, allowed people to improve their literacy and numeracy skills online, supporting the national drive to raise standards.

As both a broadcaster and a responsible and ethical employer, the BBC engages directly in the life of the communities in which it operates. This involvement takes many different forms, some based on partnerships with other organisations, and all reflecting the social and environmental responsibility which the BBC sees as an essential part of its public service role.

BBC Open Centres aim to expand the scope of the BBC's relationship with local communities. The concept was launched in Blackburn in 2001; each Open Centre offers opportunities for local people, on a drop-in basis or through more formal courses, to learn about the media, acquire IT skills and become involved in community broadcasting.

Recent developments

Original and inspiring content and programming are key to the delivery of the BBC's public service remit and it continues to provide a rich variety of exceptional factual, drama and comedy content.

All internet and interactive services across the BBC were rebranded as BBCi in November 2001 to critical and popular success, with more than eight million viewers accessing one of its new services. During 2001/02 BBCi won nine major awards, including two BAFTAs, a Promax, an EMMA, a Sports Industry Award and the Prix Europa (for the BBC Radio 1 website). BBCi is also the most visited content site in Europe, achieving up to 700 million page impressions a month.

CBeebies (already the number one channel for younger children) and CBBC launched in February 2002, both carry much higher levels of original British-made programming than any of the commercial channels.

Recent landmark specialist factual programmes have included The Blue Planet, Walking with Beasts (which attracted thirteen million viewers) and Your NHS, a major collaboration between BBC One, News, Regional networks, Radio and New Media.

One programme which defined BBC Two in 2001 was the innovative workplace comedy series The Office, starring Ricky Gervais. It won a total of seven major awards, including two BAFTAs and was voted best new comedy of 2001 at the British Comedy Awards in December 2001.

The BBC is also actively involved in charity activities. Sport Relief raised more than £10 million in 2002 and the annual Children in Need appeal raised a record £25 million.


The letters B, B, C have become instantly recognisable to audiences worldwide as a trademark of quality broadcast services. In 1997 the BBC relaunched its corporate identity to take it into the digital age of broadcasting. A simpler logo was devised and implemented across all BBC sub-brands, services and channels, to ensure consistency of communication and to strengthen and protect the core BBC brand -- one of the corporation's most valuable assets.

The BBC's logo is one of its most effective promotional devices and is used extensively and creatively across television and radio channels, online services, microphones, merchandising, cameras, books, CDs and videos around the world.

Both of the BBC's terrestrial analogue channels, BBC One and BBC Two, have their own individual identities, which enable them to communicate their own specific personalities and style under the core BBC brand. New logos for BBC One and BBC Two were implemented at the end of 2001; the former was also refreshed with new idents.

The BBC uses a variety of on and off air media to support its channels, services and programmes. Television trails are commonly used to provide details of forthcoming programmes and features.

January 2002 saw the BBC embark on a new Marketing and Communications strategy that focuses support behind key priorities from across the whole of the BBC. As part of this strategy, each month a single priority receives unprecedented levels of support, including on air trails across television and radio, posters, pro-active publicity, online banners, a launch event and much more, via a totally integrated marketing and communications campaign. The campaigns are all informed by genuine consumer insights and are evaluated through extensive quantitative and qualitative research.

The World Cup campaign during May/June 2002 was an example of this strategy in action and promoted the BBC's tri-media coverage. The Manga animation that was the core idea behind The Winning Team from the BBCcampaign was used throughout all the activity on and off air, online, and in press coverage. As a result the campaign reached 99% of the UK's adult population and was recognised by Caitlin Moran in The Times as including) "the coolest adverts ever made, anywhere on earth without exception".

Things you didn't know

  • David Attenborough's first Natural History programme, Zoo Quest, in 1954 was condemned by the controller of Programmes as a disaster.

  • On average people spend nineteen hours 54 minutes a week with the BBC -- 43.8% of their viewing and listening and over a fifth of their leisure time (21.3%).

  • Within minutes of the first attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11th 2001, the World Service English language service began the longest continuous broadcast in its history, lasting more than 40 hours.

    © 2003 Superbrands Ltd