Public outcry threatens Xmas lights sponsorship

Branded sponsorship of the Oxford Street and Regent Street Christmas lights is in jeopardy following the public outcry which greeted last year’s Birds Eye and Tango-sponsored displays.

Westminster City Council has asked both streets’ associations to seek alternative methods of funding after critics of the 1998 displays accused them of being overtly commercial.

The Oxford Street Association, which partly funds its lights from a budget donated by retailers, spent 120,000 on the 1998 display, about 70,000 of which came from Birds Eye. It hopes that its members will put up all the 200,000 needed for its all-important millennium display.

Sally Collinson, director of the Oxford Street Association, says: “In an ideal world, I would like retailers to pay for the lights completely and have no sponsorship at all. But it’s possible that we may have to settle for half and half.”

Regent Street is planning several alternatives to branded lights for its millennium display. Plans include a design competition, sponsored by a media partner and a blue-chip company, as well as themed lights which could be based around a movie launch.

Regent Street Association director Annie Walker says: “Westminster has said it doesn’t want another Tango situation. We understand that but this is the real world and we want this year’s to be the best ever.” Regent Street’s 1998 display cost 220,000 – more than Oxford Street’s on account of its extra width. Of this, 100,000 was funded by retailers.

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