BAA overhauls comms amid Olympic scrutiny

Airport operator BAA has finalised a new project-based roster as Heathrow faces global scrutiny during the Olympics influx.

Olympic task: Lord Coe greets IOC president Jacques Rogge at Heathrow
Olympic task: Lord Coe greets IOC president Jacques Rogge at Heathrow

BAA has completed a multi-million-pound overhaul of its comms operation as the airport operator faces one of the biggest tests in its history.

With the Olympics in full flow, the owner of Heathrow and Stansted Airports has brought in a raft of new agencies for a project-based roster.

The conclusion of the half-year process comes as BAA deals with an onslaught of media and visitors for the Games. There was controversy over lengthy immigration queues amid passport processing delays at Heathrow last month, but the airport has coped with the Olympic influx so far without incident.

PRWeek understands Portland has been taken on for a London 2012-focused brief to help tailor the airport operator's comms approach during the Olympics and Paralympics.

Additionally, BAA has brought in MHP to handle fin­ancial comms and updates on passenger numbers. Grayling Belgium is also a new app­ointment, focusing on EU-level public affairs.

Simon Baugh, director of media and PR for BAA, dec­lined to confirm det­ails of agencies picked for the roster but said: 'We've moved from a retainer system to a roster of agencies and a more project-based brief, focusing on agencies to provide additional creative support rather than the more typical press office work of the past.

'It's about bringing in help with messaging and campaign ideas, and though the review was prompted by a statutory requirement we wanted to take the opportunity to look at it afresh. Having a roster gives you a competitive tension.'

Among those retained for the new roster, which contains five lots thought to be worth £4m over four years, are incumbent consumer shop Mischief, public affairs agency RLM Finsbury and crisis comms consultancy Regester Larkin.

BAA's agencies will be charged with communicating the opening of its £1.5bn Terminal 2 at Heathrow and its ongoing quest for a third runway.

Meanwhile, Blue Rubicon is understood to have been reappointed for corporate briefs.

These include working on BAA's Connecting for Growth campaign calling on the Government to support new hub airport capacity to link Britain to emerging markets.

The review was widely criticised after PRWeek revealed BAA was charging agencies around £1,000 for each of the five briefs they pitched for (25 April). BAA insisted it was 'covering expenses'.

The new roster

Media relations and corporate reputation - Budget: £600k-£1.2m* – Blue Rubicon, MHP, Portland
Policy and public affairs, UK - Budget: £500k-£800k* – Portland, RLM Finsbury
Policy and public affairs, EU - Budget: £300k-£400k* – Grayling Belgium
Consumer and brand PR - Budget: £600k-£1.2m* – Mischief
Crisis comms - Budget: £540k- £720k* – Regester Larkin

*Estimated budget over the lifetime of the contract: three years, plus a year's extension.

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