British Airways is launching its biggest brand marketing campaign since the 2012 Olympics as part of its centenary celebrations, with the aim of “igniting” the emotional link between the airline and the British public.
The campaign, ‘Made by Britain’, was created by Ogilvy and will go live today (1 February) online and on TV this evening. It aims to show the people, ideas and values that British Airways believes make Britain and stars a range of famous faces – including actor Olivia Coleman, boxer Anthony Joshua, singer Paloma Faith, astronaut Helen Sharman and artist Grayson Perry – alongside people from all walks of life.
The film sees passengers, cabin crew, pilots and engineers getting ready for special flight, BA100. As they do so, they capture what they love about Britain, from its sense of style to the nation’s ability to pick itself up when things get tough and its love of tea. It signs off with the message, ‘We love you Britain. You make us who we are’ and the end line: ‘British Airways. Made By Britain’.
Speaking to Marketing Week, British Airways’ head of brand and marketing Hamish McVey, says despite the focus on Britishness the ad is not in reaction to Brexit but instead British Airways making it clear the values its brand stands for and how they align with the values of Britain.
This is very much a love letter to Britain and the ad is all about how it’s the people, ideas and values of Britain that make us who we are.
Hamish McVey, British Airways
“We are proud to represent everything that is great about Britain,” he says. “It is important for us to stand for something. This is very much a love letter to Britain and the ad is all about how it’s the people, ideas and values of Britain that make us who we are.”
“The main objective is to ignite that emotional link between BA and the flying public. It’s a long time since we did anything big like this and now is the right to do that because it’s our centenary year and we want to celebrate in a way that really celebrates our heritage but also looks forward to the future.”
The campaign will initially run for six weeks across TV, broadcaster video-on-demand and on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, as well as BA’s own properties. BA won’t be drawn on the budget, although McVey calls it a “significant investment” for the company. And while it is very much targeted at a UK audience, British Airways is testing the concept for other markets, including the US where it “researched very well”.
Why it’s important British Airways ‘stands for something’
As this is a brand campaign, British Airways is looking to move metrics around brand sentiment and reputation. British Airways clearly doesn’t have an issue with either awareness or perceptions of the brand, with YouGov BrandIndex showing it coming top of almost every measure including brand metrics such as quality, reputation and impression as well as purchase metrics such as consideration and purchase intent.
Yet McVey says it is important for British Airways to be “out in the market” and clearly communicating its points of difference in the competitive airline market.
“There is an expectation on brands like BA to be out in the market, to be really confident and bold about who we are and what we stand for. We’re the number one airline in the UK but at the same time it’s a very competitive market and it’s very important that we are out in the marketplace making sure we are really clear on what our points of differentiation are.
“What we hope to do through this campaign is improve those scores we already have – consideration and that emotional bond that exists between the public and BA.”
One area where British Airways does struggle against rivals is value. According to YouGov BrandIndex, the airline’s value score is 3.1, putting it 13th in the airline rankings and below rivals such as easyJet, Virgin Atlantic and Etihad.
There is an expectation on brands like BA to be out in the market, to be really confident and bold about who we are and what we stand for.
Hamish McVey, British Airways
Yet McVey insists British Airways offers “really good value for money” across the board, from short-haul fares starting at £39 to competitive fares on long-haul. He also points to a promotion the airline has been running offering “centenary fares” – £100 one way on long-haul flights to destinations such as New York, Barbados and Cape Town.
“We position ourselves very much as an airline that offers quality for all customers. It doesn’t matter what cabin you are flying in, we want everyone to have a quality experience when they fly with us,” he adds. “We have got really great fares out in the market.”
Celebrating British Airways’ centenary
While consumer perceptions of the brand remain strong, there have been issues at BA in recent years that have impacted the company. Back in 2017, British Airways caused chaos for thousands of passengers when an IT outage meant it couldn’t fly any planes. And last year it was hit by a hack.
McVey admits brand is just one aspect of why people choose to fly with certain airlines, with airport vicinity, route networks and customer experience also playing a vital role. That is why British Airways also has a £6.5bn investment programme, which includes 15 new aircraft, revamped airport lounges and upgraded in-flight amenities such as WiFi.
“When you look at the breadth of the network we have, the fares we have in the marketplace, the coverage we have – the combination of all those things plus a really great brand add up to a really great proposition for the customer.”
The brand campaign is just one aspect of a year of centenary celebrations that British Airways has planned. The centenary itself, which is marked by the first flight British Airways’ predecessor Air Transport and Travel Limited took between London and Paris, is on 25 August, with plans centred around three main areas: its heritage, the future of flying and celebrating both British Airways and flying.
McVey says the year will be split into three parts. The first is about its heritage and British Airways will be painting some aircraft in old liveries, starting with a plane in the BOAC livery that will be flying into Heathrow from 18 February. It is also digitising its archive so people can take a look through the history of the brand.
Then in the second quarter, the strategy will shift to the future with a focus on the future of fuels, the future of the flying experience and future careers. That will culminate in a virtual reality experience that will enable people to see how flying has evolved and what it might look like in the future.
The final part is the celebration, although McVey is a little more tight-lipped on what this might entail.
“We want the whole centenary to be very forward-facing because if you’ve been around for 100 years you learn a lot and it gives you really great insight into what the next 100 years could look like,” he concludes.