Campaigns: Public Sector - Brent Council takes Diwali to new level

Campaign: Brent Diwali 2009
Client: Brent Council
PR team: In-house
Timescale: July-October 2009
Budget: £5,000

Brent's Diwali celebrations, organised by the local authority, are the highlight of the borough's festival calendar and take place in October. Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, marks the start of the traditional Indian New Year and is one of the most important celebrations for the Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities. It also attracts people from all faiths and backgrounds. Brent's 2008 Diwali celebrations attracted 35,000 people and was named the biggest Diwali celebration in London. For 2009, the council wanted the event to be the biggest and best to date.

Objectives

- To raise awareness of the event

- To increase participation by 15,000

- For Brent Diwali 2009 to be named the biggest Diwali celebration in the UK

- To promote Brent as a borough that celebrates diversity.

Strategy and plan

Many Diwali celebrations take place in the UK, meaning it was essential to create a point of difference. PR activity focused on the location of the start of the celebrations - the new Shree Sanatan Mandir Temple in Wembley, which had not been opened to the public.

The PR team also emphasised that Brent is one of the few local authorities to have a parade, with floats, costumed dancers, musicians, fireworks and laser show.

Local press and ethnic press were targeted and increased effort was put into engaging with national press and listings publications. To appeal to a wider audience, the event was billed as an opportunity to learn about and celebrate Hindu culture, and the visual aspect of the event was strongly emphasised.

Brent Council used its own communications outlets, with stories appearing on the intranet, the council website and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as in the council's magazine and staff magazine.

About 10,000 brochures were designed and 70 advertising boards were placed in key locations around the borough.

A banner was produced and displayed at the new temple two weeks before the event. TV channel Zee TV was recruited as a media sponsor, giving coverage before and after the event.

Measurement and evaluation

The festival was named critic's choice in Time Out magazine and was covered by the BBC Asian Network. It also appeared in ethnic, industry and local media, and on listings websites.

Results

More than 60,000 people attended Brent Diwali, a 42 per cent increase on 2008.

The event won the Festivals Award and the Cultural and Arts Award in the International Visual Communications Livecom Awards 2009.

The awards celebrate creativity and excellence in live events and experiential marketing.

Principal sponsor Lebara Mobile has subsequently pledged its support for the council's next festival. Brent Council now holds the crown for the biggest Diwali celebration in the UK.

SECOND OPINION - VICKY BEANEY, DIRECTOR, EULOGY

Brent Council set itself tough objectives in terms of increasing attendance, but also in elevating the Brent Diwali celebrations to be the biggest in the UK.

With a tight budget, the council team needed to be creative yet focused to achieve its ambitions. By concentrating efforts on targeting listings publications and local London media, coupled with the team's smart use of all the council's communications channels, the team has driven awareness among a broader London and national audience, as well as local residents.

Highlighting all the visual components of the celebrations appealed to a wide range of media, providing great still images and broadcast footage, and ultimately attracting new visitors. Starting the parade from the new temple in Wembley not only reinforced the cultural aspects of the festival, but also provided an additional news hook and unique imagery to enhance the story.

A media sponsorship with a TV channel might in some campaigns restrict the opportunity for coverage through other media outlets, but this did not appear to be an issue with the Zee TV tie-up.

Although social media were incorporated into the campaign, a more strategic and comprehensive approach to social media and blogger outreach could help to build talkability and buzz in advance of the event next year.

With a wealth of organisations involved, the council team could look to create unique content such as behind-the-scenes footage and interviews for specific online news sites, as well as key bloggers.

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