An observation tower for tourists might not be an obvious brand partner for one of the world’s most recognisable airlines. But that’s exactly what residents of Brighton now have in the form of the British Airways i360 tower, which was officially unveiled to the public earlier this month.
Standing at 162 metres tall and sponsored by Britain’s flagship carrier, the i360 Tower represents the latest example of the sometimes controversial trend of companies partnering with well-known landmarks in order to help promote their brands to a large audience.
Stretching back to when Citroen famously daubed its name with tens of thousands of lights on the Eiffel Tower in 1925, the history of these partnerships is long and complex. Done well, they can significantly benefit both the brand and the landmark, helping to raise not just awareness, but to actually help grow the brand and enhance its story.
BA’s sponsorship of the i360 Tower has certainly achieved this. By working with British architects Marks Barfield, who also designed the iconic London Eye, British Airways is highlighting its desire to be perceived as more than just a traditional airline brand. It’s an attempt to create a positive halo of travel entertainment through British innovation and creativity at its best.
The partnership works because it brings something new to BA’s current brand story, adding the fun factor to a sector which often lacks emotional attachment for consumers, with too much of an emphasis on the functional.
Another successful example is the OXO Tower’s 2013 partnership with PlayStation to launch its new PS4. The iconic OXO typeface was transformed into a PlayStation console, to help promote the global launch; a transformation that took place over a four day period and saw a team of six abseilers scaling the tower from heights of 58 metres to secure the huge symbols on the North, East and West facing sections of the building.
First built as a cold store for the manufacturer of the OXO cubes, the building’s steep history and heritage was turned on its head through this partnership and was again reflective of the creative success that comes about when brands think outside of the box to capture widespread, global attention.
The partnership allowed PlayStation to associate itself with an iconic building and reach out to a wider audience beyond the gaming community and the OXO Tower has immediately become more familiar to younger, tech-savvy consumers. The juxtaposition between new and old helped take both brand stories to new and interesting places.
For every brand that has got these associations right though, there are many examples of ones that didn’t quite hit the mark. Louis Vuitton, when it placed a giant suitcase on Moscow’s Red Square is a good example. The stunt infuriated the Kremlin, who called for its immediate removal, arguing that the structure – in the form of a massive Louis Vuitton suitcase – “violates the historical appearance” of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Whilst the association certainly helped promote awareness of the brand, it did so for all the wrong reasons and failed to help enhance or grow the brand in the way the i360 Tower has achieved for British Airways. Merging a luxury fashion house with a romantic city destination like Moscow’s Red Square is a pretty obvious association, and the immediate response is, “So what?” As a result, it fails to leave any lasting or positive mark, beyond offending a good number of people.
Brands can benefit greatly through smart, well-chosen associations or partnerships. Bravery and thinking outside of the box are skills to be admired, but when it comes to brands partnering with landmarks, they should tread carefully. A successful partnership that aims to do more than just raise awareness can help to create a mutually-beneficial halo for both the brand and the landmark.
Get it wrong though and it can leave many questioning both brand and city integrity. British Airways’ i360 Tower offers brands a valuable lesson on how to get the balance just right.