Inside Tate & Lyle’s Great British Bake Off war room: how Prue’s leak presented a sticky situation

The truth is, even as a sponsor Lyles were unaware of the winner

As millions of Great British Bake Off fans sat down, cup of tea in hand, to watch the final last night (31 October) the show’s co-sponsor Lyle’s Golden Syrup was assembling a team of analysts, social media experts, creatives and marketers to man its ‘social media war room’.

Well, actually it was two rooms; one filled with mammoth screens depicting data, and the other a sea of laptops, sticky cakes and Brewdog cans. More than 20 people, including staffers from its media agency m/Six and ad agency Iris, had assembled to capitalise on the series' fever pitch moment via its @WeLoveBaking Twitter handle.

However, the uncertainty of who would come to be crowned winner was somewhat dampened prematurely thanks to a tweet from GBBO judge Prue Leith, who unfortunately revealed Sophie Faldo to be the champion 10 hours ahead of the conclusive episode; presenting a challenge for those involved.

“I’ve got a line ‘there’s always a spin’, Chris Chivrall, director of digital m/Six admitted to The Drum before the show started. “We spotted that just after she posted it, and went back to Lyle’s with four ideas.”

He said that Leith lent a challenge in terms of how Lyle’s would should get involved in the conversation. “All the noise online is about the leak, I would presume it’s going to be that way until the show starts, but when the show is running it’ll be all heads down trying to get stuff out there.”

The truth is, even as a sponsor Lyle's was unaware of the winner. While the brand never commented on the leak directly, Sara Metcalfe brand and product group manager for syrups told The Drum a week prior to the event that there were “still a lot of question marks” over what the final episode would look like.

The setup

On the night, Lyle’s main aim was to be the most talked about brand on social. The company and its co-sponsor Dr Oetker both benefitted from somewhat of a Bake Off bump, with the show’s “halo effect” helping to lift sales and awareness. From Lyle’s perspective, the finale was the ultimate opportunity to wrap itself around the buzz.

Three screens were set up in a large meeting room in m/Six’s Soho offices, while a giant TV in middle of the room was tuned into Channel 4 to watch the Bake Off action live.

On the screens, Tweetdeck had been set up with a custom interface to help the team monitor the social conversation, as had Social Baker’s listening tool, Google Analytics, and Pulsar – which gave insights into viewers emotions along with more long-term data.

Surrounded by pictures of Lyle's flapjacks and baklava promoting the brand's 'Sticky But Good' positioning, Lyle’s PR agency Mischief frantically convened with staff from Pulsar, the brand itself and m/Six around what to post during the last hour of the series.

A list of brand 'dos and don'ts' hung on the wall. The do not's included using any phrases essentially trademarked by Channel 4 including ‘soggy bottom’, ‘star baker’, ‘on your marks, set, bake’ and prohibited any mention of the show’s production company, Love Productions.

In a second, more relaxed, room more Lyle’s marketing executives sat with staff from Iris, m/Six and social creative agency Lion feeding in ideas as and when inspiration struck.

Tamas Fuzer, European marketing director at Tate & Lyle, said the real-time element was key. "It is important for us because we've been finding a lot of engagement on social media, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram," he said, adding: "We want to ensure we are part of the conversation, and this is an easy environment to stand out in."

Preparation

​Social war rooms are becoming more commonplace, with Argos having hosted one last Black Friday, but crucial to their success is preparation.

Before the event Lyle's Metcalfe said team had been working on an extensive bank of assets for weeks, with the idea being that they could be used reactively “creating all three scenarios” so they were ready for whichever finalist scooped the crown.

Leith’s earlier leak took the knife edge off this unpredictability, however there were still things the brand was unsure about, like whether the date the final fell on would see Channel 4 bring in a Halloween challenge, straying from the traditional BBC picnic feel. So they made a few spooky GIFs and videos just in case.

Proof in the pudding

On the night, Lyle's content was focused around gifs and what was going on in the show, be it host Noel Fieldings' exuberant outfit choices or the contestant's facial expressions.

There inevitable question of whether to mention the spoiler was debated; would not doing so would make them look out of the loop? Instead, the team chose to play it carefully, making adjustments to content which was poised to go live to the confusion of some viewers already in the know.

The GBBO has helped the brand bring a two-fold uptick in web traffic to its site from people looking for recipes and tips. Throughout the series, online searches for Golden Syrup have surged by almost 46% compared to co-sponsor Dr Oekter’s which grew queries by 13% during the the same time period.

While the impact from Tuesday night is still being analysed, for m/Six's Chivrall it was a learning curve around why brands should be using real-time content to jump on these big cultural moments.

"It does depend on the brand, we talk a lot about understanding your role, your tone of voice, asking whether you're set up to be nimble and so on. Hats off to Tate & Lyle that they allow us to do stuff like this," he said.

Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart is a reporter at The Drum. Based in London, she writes news, analysis and features around brand marketing and digital innovation. She has interviewed key figures from the likes of Airbnb, Amnesty International, Unilever, Facebook and Spotify, as well as covering international events like Ad Week Europe, Dmexco and Ciclope.

All by Rebecca