Big Culture Attracts Sponsors to O2

O2 Arena is the UK’s largest and most eclectic venue. Since the O2 opened in south-east London 15 months ago, more than 10 million people have passed through the building. According to the London Independent, 2.2 million-a-year tickets sold make it the world’s busiest music venue, ahead of New York’s Madison Square Garden. But behind the public face of concerts, exhibitions and film screenings, the former Millennium Dome has also become an incubator for innovative sponsorships, enabling marketers to break new ground in marketing.

Consider the Japanese computer giant NEC, which gets to incorporate the company’s latest technology into a preview event before attendees are taken upstairs to watch a show. Gina Paskins, NEC’s head of marketing and communications, says it’s a perfect schmoozing environment.

The venue has 11 founding partners, each paying more than a £1m for sponsorship rights, and each taking a wholly different approach. BMW is the brand that has positioned itself at the O2’s most exclusive entrance, placing one of its new BMW X6 models on a plinth alongside the sliding doors where artists and VIP ticket holders arrive, before walking along a corridor decorated with the words signifying the brand’s values, such as “exhilaration”, “performance”, and “precision”.

Size and scale matter in these deals. O2 is gigantic. But surely, the ability to place one’s brand into a cultural venue that gives the consumer a context that is emotionally relevant is every bit as valuable as the number of impressions.