Modern Marketing Brand Strategy

TfL sponsorship boss talks up cable car potential as £36m Emirates deal ends

By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

December 7, 2021 | 4 min read

Transport for London’s (TfL) hunt for a new brand partner for its cable car in East London has entered the next phase, says Danny Price, with tender documents now released.

TfL is hunting for a new sponsor to replace Emirates, which spent £36m on a 10-year naming rights deal. The winning brand will front a complete overhaul, away from the current ‘Emirates Air Line’ badging.

The cable car will be renamed to include the company name, there will be a rebranding of colors on all cars as well as in the station, and the brand name will also appear on the London Tube Map, which is present in over 3,300 locations across the capital.

Emirates Air Line

A new sponsor will take over the cable car from Emirates

But it’s a tricky time to be going to market. Covid-19 has had a detrimental impact on tourism in London, while lockdown measures and ongoing uncertainty over new strains of the virus mean that most of TfL’s services are still not running with the same numbers as pre-pandemic.

Danny Price, TfL’s general manager for sponsored services, says that despite the rest of the TfL network trying to recover and recoup the significant advertising losses it has incurred, the cable car attraction has seen visitor numbers bounce back strongly over the summer.

He says it is clocking up more than 60,000 journeys a week, adding that the August Bank Holiday weekend was the most popular since 2012 with 28,000 journeys, and the week in total also had the highest number of customer journeys in eight years.

“It’s had a revival,” he says. “Covid had a detrimental impact in city centers and transport but on the other hand people have explored more than they might have done. With the cable car we gave everyone their own cabin – and giving a private space makes it a premium experience. And we’ve made that a permanent change. It’s had a fantastic impact on us. We’ve seen over a million people using it since April this year.”

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He’s also promising greater social media presence to whichever brand takes the baton from Emirates next June. Thanks to the new ‘private cabin’ set-up, Price says younger people are using it as a location to shoot TikTok videos and Instagram posts. The cable car is now being tagged in an average 2.7m social media posts a month, which in turn is leading to more people visiting.

“We’re investing more in paid social media marketing too,” adds Price. “Investment over the summer resulted in a 600% uptick in bookings.”

TfL is calling for all submissions to tender to be made by February before they are evaluated in March and a new contract – with a minimum three-year term – is drawn up in June.

But it falls under the same guidelines as TfL advertising policy, which means brands in categories including tobacco, arms and food/drink that promotes foodstuffs containing high fat, salt and sugar will not be permitted to sponsor.

“We’re really looking for a partner that can be creative and make a bigger mark in London and help to emphasize the cable car’s uniqueness around the world.”

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