CAMPAIGNS: Media Relations - Winning airplay for Cliff Richard

Client: Sir Cliff Richard

Client: Sir Cliff Richard

PR Team: Mark Borkowski Press and Public Relations

Campaign: Cliff 98

Timescale: January 1998 and ongoing

Budget: Undisclosed

Sir Cliff Richard is a hardy perennial on the British pop scene. In

a career spanning 40 years, he has gone from bad boy of rock and roll in

the 1950s to a favourite of the grey-haired set in the 1990s. However

many radio stations refuse to play his new records, deeming him to be

’naff’. Although he has maintained a high profile with his older fans,

Sir Cliff has failed to attract a younger audience.

This year, with a new album Real As I Wanna Be coming out, his retained

publicity agency Mark Borkowski took on the task of bringing Sir Cliff’s

work to a new audience.


To redefine public perceptions of Cliff Richard as a performer. To

attract a younger audience, and beat radio play resistance.


The aim was to get the media to see Sir Cliff as a performer with


A new short haircut, and stylish wardrobe to reflect Sir Cliff’s new

image signalled there were changes afoot.

The campaign targeted publications which would not have usually featured

Sir Cliff, and are influential with younger readers. As he was prepared

to do hard-hitting interviews, covering subjects such as his sexuality,

he has appeared in titles such as Loaded and New Nation. Next month he

will feature in the style-bible Face.

Knowing that many radio stations would refuse outright to play any new

Cliff Richard records, his record company released his new single Can’t

Keep This Feeling In under the name Blacknight, and sent it out to

various radio stations, where it was played frequently. Prior to the

single’s release Blacknight’s true identity was revealed. Although this

prompted some radio stations to remove the single from playlists - even

though it was acknowledged to be a popular song - it created the

opportunity for Sir Cliff to speak to the media about ageism in the

music industry.

The story was strategically leaked to the Sunday papers, which led to

news stories in the dailies, and sparked debate across the nation.

Chris Evans’ Virgin Radio is one of the stations which refuses to play

Sir Cliff’s records. After Evans’ stinging on-air attack, Cliff’s many

fans were outraged. Mark Borkowski PR co-ordinated a picket outside

Virgin Radio in London, demanding an apology and airplay for Cliff’s


Now the campaign has taken on something of a life of its own. On Friday,

30 October BBC One took the unprecedented step of clearing four hours of

programming during the day, and dedicated a series of shows to Cliff,

described as ’one of the country’s greatest living music legends’.


The first single, Can’t Keep This Feeling In debuted in the national

charts at number ten and the album entered at number eight.

As a result of the campaign, Ladbrokes, the betting agency, have reduced

the odds of Sir Cliff’s next single being the 1998 Christmas number one

from 100-to-1, to 15-to-1, and the odds continue to fall.

In the war of words with Chris Evans, Sir Cliff has clearly come out the

victor, with columnists all over the country condemning the ginger one’s



This inspired campaign has revealed hitherto unknown depths of feeling

towards Sir Cliff which will have disc jockeys thinking twice before

they decide to lay into him again. Whether or not it will result in a

long-term change in public perception remains to be seen.

Obviously it has succeeded in winning radio play for his new record, and

in bringing the whole subject of ageism into the spotlight, and it

should ensure good sales for Sir Cliff’s new album.

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