LEADER: Brands’ cultural collusion pays off

Some of entertainment PR’s heaviest hitters – Gary Farrow, Matthew Freud, Alan Edwards – have been involved in the re-opening of The O2 this weekend (the venue previously known as the Millennium Dome), hinting at the sheer ambition of this project by the mobile communications brand.

While Vodafone continues to dominate the world of sport – with high-profile sponsorships in
Formula 1, the Champions League and the England cricket team – O2 has made a spectacular bid to own the sphere of popular entertainment. The O2 Wireless Festival, held last weekend, has already established itself as a mainstay of the music festival circuit, alongside Virgin Mobile’s hugely successful V Festival.

One reason that O2 has been successful is because it has avoided the common mistake of simply slapping its logo on an existing event – leaving it open to attack for ‘over-commercialising’ culture. Instead it has created new types of event. It has invested in entertainment, but the punter also senses genuine innovation.

In this week’s special focus on Culture & PR, we see some brands taking this enterprise even further.

On hearing that consumer tech brands such as Apple and Sony Ericsson are linking up with pillars of the arts establishment, like the Royal Albert Hall and the V&A, one could be forgiven for a sharp intake of breath. There is a natural suspicion that there is a danger of ‘giving in’ or ‘selling out’ to mass-market culture. But on closer examination, we see examples of collaboration rather than commercialisation; marketing and PR professionals working closely with artistic directors to add a whole new dimension to the arts. 

This is an area of genuine excitement and invention for the PR industry. Brands that have clearly thought hard about their customers’ lifestyles have looked beyond standard media relations and created new types of narrative. Above all, they have taken some risks.

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