CAMPAIGNS: Irn-Bru gatecrashes MTV Music Awards - Guerrilla Marketing

Campaign: Irn-Bru Welcomes MTV to its Turf Client: Barr Soft Drinks PR Team: Tangerine PR Timescale: 1 October-15 December 2003 Budget: £15,000

In the run-up to the MTV Europe Music Awards 2003 on 7 November, Irn-Bru wanted to create as much noise as possible in Edinburgh to confirm its position as the number one Scottish grocery purchase, and highlight the fact that MTV had arrived on its 'turf'.

Barr challenged Tangerine PR to assist the marketing team, promotions company Zak Facta and Scottish advertising agency The Leith, to create an integrated campaign.


To enhance Irn-Bru's visibility in Edinburgh before the event and throughout the day and evening of the MTV Europe Music Awards, even though the brand was not an official sponsor.

Strategy and Plan

The team decided on a guerrilla-style campaign to capitalise on the brand's associations with 'Scottishness' and cheek, and set about hijacking the MTV Awards. With the aim of splashing Irn-Bru's orange and blue all over Edinburgh, the PR team staged activities around the city throughout the day to grab as much attention as possible.

Tangerine was not allowed into the awards and did not know where the celebrity guests were going to stay or what was going to happen and when.

Nevertheless, it found ways around this. Scouting Edinburgh for good venues for its stunts, it adapted its plans only hours before the event. It also persuaded MTV Europe to include Irn-Bru as a back-stage drink.

In the week before the awards, Tangerine organised competitions, including one in the Daily Record newspaper to give away a ticket to the Irn-Bru open-top bus party and after-show party, hosted by BBC Radio 1 presenter Trevor Nelson at the City nightclub.

Another similar competition ran on radio station Forth One's breakfast show.

On the day of the awards, Tangerine sent its own film crew, presenter and photographer to Edinburgh airport to support a team giving away Irn-Bru and T-shirts to the public. The team greeted celebrity guests and caught The Black Eyed Peas, Outkast, The White Stripes and Sharleen Spiteri of Scottish band Texas swigging the drink on camera. The airport activity was brought to a climax as the PR team introduced a Justin Timberlake lookalike to the crowds.

Irn-Bru-branded vehicles, including giant 'can' cars, motorbikes and taxis, ferried journalists around the city and distributed merchandise such as inflatable Irn-Bru bottles and CD holders.

In the afternoon, 'Justin' was joined by a Kylie lookalike to recreate the infamous Brit Awards pose, when the real Justin clutched the real Kylie's behind, outside the Malmaison Hotel, where Madonna was reportedly staying.

Tangerine also brought to life the 'electric ladies' from a popular Irn-Bru TV ad campaign. Six masked grannies drew up on three-wheeled mobility scooters filled with Irn-Bru and circled outside the hotel. The stunt gained coverage on Scottish TV's Scotland Today.

In the evening, the team toured the city with the lookalikes, Forth One breakfast show presenter Andy 'Boogie' Bouglas, the competition winners and a DJ in a branded open-top bus. The tour finished with an Irn-Bru party outside the awards in Leith as revellers flooded out.

Measurement and Evaluation

Irn-Bru's presence was covered in The Times' Scottish edition and the Daily Record. Broadcast coverage ran over several days on Scotland Today, Forth One and Forth Two radio and BBC Radio 1. Online coverage included, Forth One's and the BBC's websites. Coverage was also secured in trade publications The Grocery Trader and The Independent Retailer. All coverage was positive. The brand appeared on 15 different occasions, with a combined viewership, listenership and readership of 1.6 million, not including websites.


Because of the limited budget and style of campaign, Tangerine did no brand awareness poll after the campaign, but coverage, viewership, listenership and readership were in line with targets.

'It was a very effective and unusual campaign,' says Bouglas. 'It was unlike anything else. It suited Irn-Bru because its ads have always been tongue-in-cheek and controversial.'

Scotland Today presenter Stephen Jardine, who anchored the programme's live awards coverage, agrees. 'They took a really innovative approach,' he says. 'There were only two Irn-Bru can cars, but they seemed to be around every corner.'

Jardine does have one concern. 'We have to be very careful of ITC rules, that merchandise does not have "undue prominence",' he explains. 'The PR team wasn't heavy, but we couldn't show a lot of it.'

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