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Spinnaker Tower branding: Marketing color angers Portsmouth

As reported by BBC News on June 8, the city made a very profitable deal with Emirates Airline to sponsor the landmark tower leading to plans to paint the white tower the red and white colors to represent the airline. This immediately angered the Portsmouth residents since the colors are those of the Southampton football club, “Portsmouth’s major rivals.”

Those residing in the city are very proud of The Portsmouth Football Club and their Royal Navy color. As soon as word spread of the impending tower branding in red the people spoke up loudly with an online petition with just about 10,000 signatures against painting the now white tower the red color. Although the deal means bringing much money to the city, the people spoke their minds in the signed petition forcing the Portsmouth City Council to now review their plans of painting the towering landmark in a rival footballing city’s colors.

When a business uses branding as a marketing tool it is important to assure that colors, wording, etc will not be offensive as this will work against any efforts of selling their brand. Marketing professional LeadBridge Partners simply states “Know your customer” and now Emirates Airline is listening to its customer base in Portsmouth. After a weekend of working together with the city, Emirates has agreed with Portsmouth to work on a new tower design that will fits the heritage of the proud city.

The tower that opened in 2005 stands 560 feet high and is run by a private company but owned by the city council. The skyscraping contemporary tower will be renamed as the Emirates Spinnaker Tower and is planned to have the new branding design ready for the major renowned America’s Cup World Series July sailing happening. The circulated Portsmouth weekend petition strongly stated “To allow the colours of Southampton to stand tall on one of our city’s most prominent landmarks shows an incredible lack of empathy for the residents. It must be stopped.” This will be a major marketing tool for Emirates and the airline certainly does not want to alienate anyone due to the branding.

According to a Press Association article in MSN News on June 6, Alex Judd started the petition stating that the deal for the branding “flies in the face of the values of the city”. The petition refers to the red branding as neighboring rival city Southampton’s color versus the color blue that represents Portsmouth in which the tower stands. The public spoke loudly enough in the petition to concern the city council and airline.

With blue being the city’s color, Donna Jones, the Council leader passed on her own thoughts “I am passionate about this city. I was born here and have lived here all my life… Likewise I love Portsmouth Football Club, the Royal Navy and our heritage. I fully understand people’s feelings about blue being the city’s colour and the city emblem.” She furthered “I am pleased to advise that, after working with Emirates over the weekend, and having spoken to Mark Catlin, chief executive of Portsmouth FC, and other key stakeholders, we are working up a new design for the tower. The design will reflect the city’s heritage.”

Stated by president of Emirates Airline Sir Tim Clark “As the most prominent landmark in Portsmouth we are honoured to be the inaugural sponsor of Emirates Spinnaker Tower” going on to say “Part of the reason that this sponsorship opportunity was so appealing to us is that it will enable the local city council to reinvest this partnership money into the local community, something that we are proud to be able to support.”

Companies must understand that their branding needs to work for them and not against them. With social media and online petitions the people can speak up very quickly and loudly putting a real damper on original marketing ideas. It is necessary for businesses and governments to listen and learn. Emirates may have red as their branding color but in the case of the Spinnaker Tower and the City of Portsmouth this is a situation where they are realizing that painting the tower in red may work against the millions they are spending in using this marketing tool.

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