John Barrowman Scotland Commonwealth Games

What did the Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014 opening ceremony mean for Scotland the brand?

By The Drum Team, Editorial



Commonwealth Games article

July 24, 2014 | 8 min read

The opening ceremony of the 20th Commonwealth Games kicked off in Glasgow's Celtic Park last night. The Drum takes a look at what the ceremony meant for Scotland as a brand.

With all eyes on Scotland in a year of huge historical importance for the country – as well as the referendum on independence around the corner, Scotland is also hosting the Ryder Cup and celebrating a year of homecoming, with a series of cultural events over the course of the year – the opening ceremony had a lot to live up to.

It hasn't been without its controversy, either. The organisers faced criticism for their controversial plans – later cancelled in a U-turn – to demolish Glasgow's Red Road flats.

And with Danny Boyle's cultural masterpiece of the London 2012 Olympics still fresh in everyone's minds, did the opening ceremony live up to expectations? And what did it mean for Scotland the brand?

Gillian McCormack, managing director, Material UK

The best of Glasgow and Scotland was never going to be easy to sum up in two hours, but with the powerful stories of Glasgow 'firsts', such as women of Glasgow being the first to march against slavery and our stance against apartheid; Nicola Benedetti's Loch Lomond; Mylo's brilliant set to accompany the athletes' parade, the unbelievable Glasgow welcome to all, the incredible Jim Lambie floor, a volunteer cast giving it 'pure laldi' (OK some might have been a wee bit over-zealous and some a wee bit 'rogue'); Chris Hoy, a beautifully moving minute's silence and Team Scotland – well, I think they gave it a good try.

Fair enough, we probably would all like to 'un-see', twice over, the dancing teacakes and Barrowman's Tartan 'Scooby Do' like mystery bus, but hey... we're Scottish... we need to moan about something! Glasgow, I for one think you pulled a wee stoater out the bag.

Steven Mallon, managing director, Edinburgh, DigitasLBi

The opening ceremony allowed Scotland to showcase what is unique about the country and its people. The key theme of being a welcoming nation underpinned by inclusiveness endorses Scotland the brand to a huge audience internationally.

It also emphasised that Scotland is inherently about its people and that, despite the majority of news and commentary about Scotland recently being about heavyweight political and socio-economic issues surrounding the forthcoming referendum, Scotland does not take itself too seriously. That helps to convey the message that Scotland will continue to be an outward-looking, innovative and fun nation – emphasising the brand values of extending a warm welcome to the world at large.

Bryan Garvie, director, The Big Partnership

For a country so adept at modesty, I think we gave a damn fine account of ourselves. I watched the opening ceremony trying to imagine how it might be received across the Commonwealth. I’m pretty sure the dancing Tunnock’s teacakes would have made a few viewers in Kiribati (and maybe even in Airdrie) scratch their heads in confusion, but I’d like to think that everyone watching felt the same pride I did.

Even without the inspired Unicef text fundraising initiative, the message was clear – Scotland is warm, welcoming, inclusive and sporting. Not a bad reputation to have.

Jane Wilson, former chief executive, CIPR

Playing 'Scottish Motif Bingo' whilst watching the opening ceremony, 'House' was shouted somewhere between the haggis and the golfers. This was Scotland but was it as we know it? Having been a student in Glasgow in the 1990s, it's not the first time that I've seen people in dodgy gear in the East End dancing about to The Shamen's 'Move any Mountain', but it's a bad trip when the Tunnock's teacakes you're saving for a 4am snack start dancing too.

I expected an evening of high camp and trippyness after seeing those athletes' outfits, but this was beyond my expectations. I'm not sure what this ceremony said to the world about Glasgow and Scotland but it certainly didn't fit the dour stereotype and no, all you lazy commentators who had this line lined up in advance, there wasn't a deep-fried Mars bar in sight!

Lauren Murray, marketing development manager, Brand Union

With the referendum looming, the opportunity for Scotland to host a commonwealth games could not be more timely; a chance to unite the country in celebration of what's great about being Scottish, whilst reminding a global audience of the country's heritage and cultural wealth. Opening ceremonies are joyful events full of hope and celebration, the perfect stage for any country or city to showcase their brand to the world, and Glasgow 2014 was no exception.

As expected, the performance featured many of the assets that we associate with Scotland – kilts, bagpipes, and a lot of jigging – but what resonated most was the focus on 'brand Scotland''s personality. Full of warmth, humour and a palpable sense of pride, the famous faces involved were sure to dial up the accent whilst talking (and singing) about the quirks of the culture which make the country so unique.

What further differentiated this ceremony was that it was not all navel-gazing, with the organisers choosing to leverage this opportunity to stress the importance of sport to the children of Scotland, in partnership with Unicef. The text appeal which ran throughout the ceremony not only gave the celebration a higher purpose, but allowed the audience to feel more involved in the experience, whether sat in Celtic Park or watching the TV in Sydney.

How brand Scotland is experienced, by the athletes participating, spectators attending, and those watching on TV, will ultimately determine how the brand is perceived throughout this tournament. It is crucial that the warmth, humour and hospitality showcased at the opening ceremony is reflected in every other aspect of the tournament in order for the good feeling to sustain and live beyond the next 11 days, and with every attendee tweeting and posting (including athletes and celebrities with huge social followings) there's nowhere to hide.

Clare McDonald, executive creative director, Rosetta

As a Scot, I have to go “hame” to get my much needed fix of banter and chippies. Our humour, our self deprecation and the love of a great sing song is a huge part of the Scottish DNA. Another is our unique pioneering spirit, bravery and intelligence washed down with a slug of “mintalness”. The Commonwealth Ceremony 2014 had it all. Tunnocks with tights, dancers who had just stolen their care home chairs and the Scots team walking out to The Shamen! But… Where was Paolo? Biffy Clyro? Emeli? or even Fatherson? It was missing so many. I cringed. I was feert. But… I was engaged and couldn’t keep my eyes off the screen. It was crazy. Daft. And totally unforgettable.

Hugh Baillie, CEO of FullSIX London

I really enjoyed the opening ceremony and I think Scotland can be rightly proud of herself. Highlights for me were the mix of The White Heather Club with Calvin Harris and The Tunnock's Tea Cakes.

Overall, I think the event showed Scotland at its most informal, relaxed and fun. Having said that, at times it felt more representative of Glasgow than Scotland. Like London and, ‘The Rest of England’, we can appear two separate countries at times. In the light of London 2012 though, I thought this opening ceremony did really well to stand up so strongly in its own right.

The Unicef fundraising was a brave and brilliant touch; it played to Scotland's philanthropic heritage whilst focusing on the power of sport to heal and build. If the weather holds, and the sporting achievements deliver to a similar standard then we’re in for a cracking games.

Oh, and like everyone else, I loved the dogs

John Barrowman Scotland Commonwealth Games

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