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London Gatwick Airport Experiential Marketing Lily Cole

Innovative experiential strategy ensures sales success and increased passenger engagement with London Gatwick Fashion Week


By The Drum Team | Editorial

August 20, 2011 | 9 min read

Gatwick wanted to clearly differentiate itself from competitor airports, by focusing on its friendly, fun, caring and quirky brand personality. All activity needed to bring these values to life and deliver against specific commercial objectives, whilst promoting targeted brand awareness. Enter Brando with London Gatwick Fashion Week 2010, the first ever model search and fashion show hosted by an airport. High fashion hit the runway with Storm Model Management, supermodel Lily Cole, Gatwick retailers, a pack of model wannabes and thousands of enthralled holidaymakers. The winning combination helped Brando create a media blitz which resulted in an ROI of 1:12, 400% sales increases and one in three passengers saying they would now choose to fly from Gatwick over other airports.

Background and Brief

Since the sale of London Gatwick Airport from BAA to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) in 2010, Brando has been tasked with raising Gatwick’s profile. The new vision of Gatwick was to become London’s Airport of choice and grow passenger numbers significantly, communicated via a new brand positioning statement; ‘Gatwick…Your London Airport’.

Results of London Gatwick Fashion Week 2009 campaign

The 2009 campaign had exceeded expectations. Coverage was secured in high profile media homes ranging from The Sun, BBC News, Capital FM, London Lite, Evening Standard, to the Guardian and Independent. Post campaign evaluation highlighted a positive shift in customer perception about the airport and retail sales increased during the experience.

The brand experience secured £1,086,774 worth of editorial coverage and reached over 260 million people (media and event attendance numbers). The ROI was 1:7 and for every £1 spent the messages reached 1,766 people.

• Advertising value: £362,258 and OTS: 260,297,191

• 100% of coverage included London Gatwick Airport name checks, 75% positioned it as a shopping destination and 65% included discounted shopping messages.

• 95% of passengers agreed the show was entertaining and fun

• The experience secured up to a 15 per cent rise in sales for key retailers – Accessorize, All Saints, Mango etc (a Ted Baker dress featured in the show sold out during the event)

• 28% of passengers were encouraged to go and buy last minute holiday items from watching the fashion show

• 77% felt the show helped them relax and get in the holiday mood (i.e. more likely to want to shop)

• 38% said they were encouraged to buy holiday items at the airport next time they fly

• 36% said they would get to the airport early next time to give themselves more time

• 51% were not aware of the great retailers available before watching the show

Brando’s task was to help promote Gatwick’s discounted retail offering, highlight the airport’s fashion credentials and drive sales airside. The campaign had to build on the huge success, outlined above, of London Gatwick Fashion Week (LGFW) 2009 and create media buzz through an engaging, newsworthy and memorable passenger experience.

Furthermore, the campaign needed to deliver stand-out from other airports during the busy spring/summer window and provide extra news hooks to ensure coverage and engagement lasted over this sustained period rather than a one-hit-wonder, event approach.

Research showed our approach needed to excite and entertain the target market of ABC1 travellers to get them in the right ‘mind set’ to shop – only 18 per cent of those polled (Source: Naked Survey 2009) had planned to do shopping at the airport. In addition to this setback, we only had a very short window to create an impact before passengers would leave to catch their flights.

Challenges Posed

• Better than 2009: LGFW 2009 was a great success - we needed to breathe new life into the campaign and make it bigger, better and increase its longevity.

• Logistics/security: Airport events are notoriously hard from a logistics perspective. Rigorous security checks had to be undertaken on 50 members of staff to allow them access airside for the structure build and to staff the event.

• Audience: Travellers only have a limited amount of time in terminal before boarding their flight. Therefore the show had to engage the audience completely within 10 minute slots.

• Media: Airside events are closed to the general public. Therefore, LGFW was not relevant for a large portion of consumers/readers/viewers so proved a tricky media sell. It needed the quirkiness of finding model talent in an airport and the open entry mechanic to widen its appeal. The partnership with Storm also added credibility for the media.

• Retailers: Were reluctant to loan product to be featured in the shows and limited seasonal stock created delays. Revealing increased sales from LGFW 2009 helped overcome this obstacle.

Implementation of Strategy

Inspired by the discovery of Kate Moss at JFK airport by Storm founder Sarah Doukas in the ‘80’s, we partnered with Storm Model Management three months prior to the fashion show and launched Gatwick Runway Models, the first ever model search hosted by an airport. Winners would receive a New Faces contract with Storm and for the first time, tread the catwalk at Gatwick Fashion Week alongside a line up of established models.

Whatever creative we devised had to be sustainable: its hype and visibility needed to run and run throughout the crucial summer traveller months, so the campaign was staggered into various stages of media-worthy pieces of experiential activity.

Kicking off in June, supermodel Lily Cole was chosen to front the campaign, which started with a huge media bang as she took to the runway for a dramatic launch photocall.

At over two meters high, eye catching entry photo-booths were located in both terminals where passengers could enter the competition. Those not so lucky to be jetting off could also enter the competition via a dedicated microsite. Over 1,100 entries were received in just six weeks.

Two months later, passengers were entertained with an in-terminal boot-camp with renowned catwalk queen Jade Parfitt. She gave the finalists a crash course in model training, including a catwalk and posing challenge on the iconic glass bridge at Gatwick Airport.

LGFW ran for four days in August, Gatwick’s busiest time of year - ensuring the activity was seen by the maximum number of travellers. The live ‘mini’ (10 minute-long) catwalk shows meant passengers could genuinely experience and purchase top airport fashion in the short time they had available. We designed the event to offer more than just fashion shows and built an interactive consumer area to provide free cosmetic treatments from airport retailers (MAC, GHD, and No7). A bespoke retail zone allowed passengers to buy items from the catwalk that were from the other terminal.

LGFW launched with a bang as Lily Cole revealed the winners of Gatwick Runway Models and a jam-packed media day saw the likes of BBC News, The Daily Express and ES Magazine speak to Lily and the winners.

The campaign structure provided on-going experiential engagement with the public via the photo booths, boot–camp event and finally LGFW. It also involved an intensive social media programme, using behind-the-scenes footage with campaign ambassadors such as show stylist to the stars Kirsty Drury and renowned make-up artist Charlie Duffy, whilst a branded YouTube channel hosted content across the campaign.

Underpinning everything was an interactive microsite. Built as a supporting entry mechanic to the model competition it ensured maximum reach and opportunity to engage with the wider public outside the airport environment.


The campaign exceeded expectations and delivered on its objectives by entertaining and engaging passengers directly with the benefits of airside shopping, reinforcing the airport’s fashion credentials and significantly increasing retail sales. Importantly, the campaign resonated with the airport’s target market and showcased what it had to offer, in a memorable, newsworthy and engaging way, motivating passengers to shop and reappraise the brand.

Results vs. Objectives

Position London Gatwick as a desirable, exciting shopping destination / Showcase top retailers

• LGFW helped 77% of passengers relax and get in the holiday mood

• 86% agreed LGFW was ‘fun and entertaining’

• 49% would be inclined to buy holiday items at the airport and take advantage of the savings available

Help drive retail sales

• Retailers experienced increased sales during the event period – one retailer noted a 400% increase in sales of one product shown on the catwalk

• Long term sales increase potential is also qualified by the fact that 32% of travellers would get to the airport earlier next time to have more time to shop

• Store Manager for Ted Baker said: “We’d definitely get involved again next year. We saw a 15% increase in sales compared to last year - I think it would be really good to do it again and profile more of our product.”

Position Gatwick as not just another airport / encourage reappraisal of the brand

• 350 pieces of coverage achieved with 57% describing Gatwick as a shopping destination. Highlights included a full page in The Daily Express, Stylist Magazine and Metro and a 2.5 minute piece on BBC News, plus positive coverage in The Sunday Times, The Sun, ITV London Tonight and Evening Standard.

• PR value of £3,311,712: OTS: 415,228,377

• LGFW would encourage 32% to fly from Gatwick Airport over other airports

Client Testimonial

“We’ve been completely blown away by the success of this event. Given the tight turnaround and logistical complexities of hosting events at the airport, we’re overwhelmed by the results achieved and It’s exceeded all our expectations. My only worry is how you’re going to beat this next time!”

Patricia Conway

Gatwick Marketing, Research, Business Insight and Airline Business Development

This case study was awarded a Commendation for Event or Experiential Strategy at The Drum Marketing Awards

London Gatwick Airport Experiential Marketing Lily Cole

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