Client: Nimrod 2000 Consortium
PR Team: The London Bureau and The Market Tiers (joint campaign)
Campaign: Securing the Nimrod aircraft replacement contract
Timescale: March - July 1996
Budget: pounds 15,000
The British Aerospace-led Nimrod 2000 was one of three consortia bidding
for the pounds 2 billion contract to replace the RAF’s Nimrod aircraft.
Against competition from US giants Lockheed and Loral, it could most
effectively wrap its bid in the Union Jack as BAe was the only British
The consortium’s PR team, led by former Tory communications chief Hugh
Colver, lobbied the MoD, DTI, ministers and MPs with a strong
constituency interest. Colver described its press relations and
advertising campaign as ‘low-key’, but with an important broadcast
To achieve maximum broadcast coverage at a crucial time in the
deliberation process and expose MPs to the benefits to their
constituencies. And, in the case of victory, to convey a positive
impression of the consortium.
After years of preparatory work on the bid, Nimrod 2000 chose to strike
on 17 June, when military recommendations landed on ministers’ desks.
Nimrod 2000, television specialists the London Bureau and radio experts
Market Tiers worked together on the pre-production stage in early June
1996. They developed statistics on regional benefits and a database of
local BAe contractors. Subsequently the team ‘primed’ contractors and
encouraged them to go out and sell the Nimrod 2000 story.
The London Bureau produced a television stock footage tape for use by
broadcasters. This included pictures that stations would have otherwise
found it hard to access, including a mock-up of the proposed aircraft
and the present day Nimrod in action. An audio feature and audio bite
based on the TV tape were also developed by Market Tiers.
The London Bureau alerted TV stations in the week running up to 17 June.
Journalists were offered a story advisory, local and regional statistics
showing the jobs and investments at stake and, two days before the story
date, the television footage was sent to those who requested it. The
stations were offered interviewees and the opportunity to film at
Market Tiers sent a forward planner fax to radio stations with cue
material for audio features or ISDN interviews. Account handlers liaised
with journalists over interviews with local contractors. The audio
feature was distributed via an ISDN feed and interviews arranged with
the consortium’s project director.
A few weeks later, on the day of the announcement that Nimrod 2000 had
won, all relevant programmes were contacted with reminders of the
implications of the deal.
The London Bureau claims that almost 12 million viewers were reached
with its ‘jobs at stake’ story via nine national bulletins, two
breakfast programmes, 28 regional bulletins and international news
The Market Tiers claims radio coverage reached 14.5 million listeners,
excluding independent radio news which is broadcast to 165 stations.
And, on the day of the announcement itself, Nimrod secured a further 73
items of television coverage, reaching more than 50 million viewers.
It is difficult to isolate or provide evidence of the effect of the
broadcast coverage on the decision-making process. The volume of
coverage speaks for itself and therefore potentially had a powerful
influence on MPs.
Colver says: ‘It was one of the best broadcast efforts I’ve been
involved with. The agencies were able to give us specialist support and
raise our visibility at just the time it was needed.’
Colver and his team are now involved with developing the export market
which has been opened up by the new technology used in their aircraft