This issue of fDi Magazine went to press right in the middle of the Olympic Games, which took place mere miles from our London offices. A trip abroad and the rigours of publication deadlines kept me from making the most of the festivities, or really paying a huge amount of attention. But I did tune into the opening ceremony, eager to see how the UK would choose to portray itself to the world. Place marketing is central to FDI promotion, and at the heart of place marketing is getting the brand right. The Olympics are a priceless opportunity to transmit a branding message to the world. As an FDI observer, I am all eyes to this sort of thing, even if I can easily live without watching the badminton or fencing finals.
The stage for showing off Great Britain and Northern Ireland as well as the capital was set with the opening ceremony, for which there were an estimated 1 billion viewers globally. As a branding exercise, it was a mixed bag, in my view, and its approach had some lessons that can be drawn for investment promoters.
There seems to have been a concerted effort not to compete with Beijing, the previous host city, in size, scale and sheer force. London went instead for a quirky, endearingly chaotic, and more personal feel. It was self-effacing in its effect. I would suggest in doing so London undersold itself a bit, but the lesson here is a useful one: don’t try to compete on another place’s terms; embrace your own strengths.
Where the ceremony went wrong, from this foreigner’s perspective, was in the moments that were just too parochial or did not translate well (the homage to the National Health Service being the main example of this). When the world is watching, it seems a waste to play so much to the hometown crowd. The lesson that could be applied to FDI promotion: don’t assume your international partners or guests care about the same things as you do; focus on what might appeal to them.
However, any flaws in the script were all but overcome by one big show-stopping surprise: Queen Elizabeth II appearing on screen in a skit with James Bond and seemingly parachuting into the stadium with him from a helicopter. I wrote in my column in the last issue that cities need to bring out the big guns sometimes to attract investment. I had in mind someone more akin to the mayor, but London brought out the top gun herself, confounding all expectations, setting tongues wagging worldwide and making a lasting impression. That’s quite a lesson for the next host city, Rio, to take on board. The gauntlet has been thrown down – by the silk-gloved hand of a royal no less.
Courtney Fingar is the editor of fDi Magazine. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org