What did The Bingo Association want PLMR to do for them?
The Bingo Association set PLMR a six month objective to achieve a 5% tax reduction in the March 2014 budget.
Bingo is played in 400 clubs across Britain, by 3.5 million active members. Whilst most other gambling activities were taxed at 15%, the bingo industry was subjected to bingo duty at 20%. Investment in the industry was being stifled and clubs were closing. Communities were losing a valued social resource. Jobs were being lost. Despite years of lobbying the Government to reduce the tax rate from 20% to 15%, nothing had changed and bingo was low on the political agenda.
In the six months before PLMR’s involvement from March to September 2013, there were just 18 mentions of bingo in the UK Parliament by MPs. Only four of those concerned tax rates on bingo. The Bingo Association needed a fresh approach. In October 2013, The Bingo Association approached PLMR, and the Boost Bingo campaign was devised.
Any potential pitfalls you needed to take into account?
The main challenge was that The Bingo Association had been trying to the lower the tax for several years without success. Bingo was not on the political agenda. There was also very short timeframe in order to achieve the tax cut in the 2014 Budget.
OK, and what was your grand plan to tackle this?
The UK coalition Government was looking for ways to improve its reach, but faced an image problem. Our insight was to position bingo and support for bingo as part of the solution to the Government’s problem of how to engage with key parts of the electorate at a critical time in the election cycle.
To do this, there were two key PR strategies which formed the Boost Bingo campaign. First, MPs and other key decision makers needed to receive key information letting them know the relationship between bingo and their key electorate, as well as the positive effect that a bingo tax reduction would have on the industry and their constituencies.
Secondly, the public had to be vocal about its love for bingo and local, regional and national media had to report it. Only by showing MPs and other decision makers how popular bingo really was with their key audiences in target areas, would they see bingo as a channel to reach the more elusive parts of the electorate and therefore, decide to change policy on bingo tax.
Sounds good. What outcome did all this have on your client’s business?
Between October 2013 and March 2014, there were 524 mentions of bingo in Parliament by MPs, a 6,325% increase over the preceding six months. In total, the campaign produced 1,109 pieces of coverage in the media, worth millions of pounds. The campaign had a potential reach of more than 2 million social media users, with #BoostBingo used 1500 times, 1350 tweets sent and 1500 Facebook likes. This is the highest media profile the game of bingo has ever enjoyed and the media requests are still coming in.
Responding directly to the momentum built by the campaign, Chancellor George Osborne listened and in the 2014 Budget took action. Bingo duty was halved to 10% to protect jobs and communities. The tax reduction unlocked investment of at least £30 million a year for the industry, providing a stimulus for new clubs to open, others to be refurbished, and jobs to be created. The 2014 Budget became known as ‘The Bingo Budget’. The tax reduction was front page of the UK’s most read newspaper, The Sun.
Impressive. Any gems of wisdom you learned from working on this that you’d like to pass on?
It is important to marry your campaign aims with the Government’s narrative about what they are trying to achieve (in this case, jobs and economic growth) and make sure this conveyed through all media and social media. Never lose sight of the fact that MPs are far more willing to mobilise behind a campaign relevant to their constituents. If you can make your issue important to a large number of constituencies, you’ll have a powerful campaign. Creativity at all levels is key as is using film to tell stories, something PLMR has been doing for years.
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