Leeds in Barcelona, was a festival of commerce and culture aimed to increase the profile of Leeds in Barcelona and wider Catalonia; but at it’s heart, aimed to forge long term business trade links between the two cities. The event was organised by Marketing Leeds.
More then 150 delegates traveled from Leeds to Barcelona for 3 days, including representatives from Leeds Legal, Financial Leeds, Leeds City Council and Creative Leeds. During the 3 days there would be a series of events and conferences aimed at building links between Leeds delegates and their Barcelona counterparts
We approached Marketing Leeds with the idea to expand the project to reach another target, in another way. Two members of our team had previously lived and studied in Barcelona at the European Institute of Design, so we were acutely aware of the influence within the city of it’s more ‘underground’ and ‘creative’ community. We knew that in order to raise awareness and interest within this community we needed a different approach, focusing on social media, interesting digital content and personal interaction.
Before traveling to Barcelona, we contacted all our target blogs and influencers to introduce and explain the project. This was done in very personal way, which included canvassing current opinion (if any) on Leeds. There were no press releases or traditional marketing tactics used here: purely personal conversations and research.
Following this period of ‘sounding out’ we then planned a ‘Bloggers’ Reception’ in Barcelona at the Hotel Barcelo in Raval. We knew this stunning but laid-back setting would be attractive to our target and firmly position our project in the right area.
The bloggers’ reception went very well. Every one of our target bloggers and influencers attended. The atmosphere was laid back but informative as we played a video about Leeds and people socialised to the background of carefully selected music from Leeds singers, bands and Djs. It was our very own Leeds atmosphere in the middle of Barcelona!
After the event we stayed in constant contact with the Barcelona bloggers and arranged for 10 of them to come and visit Leeds the next month to discover the city for themselves.
The Barcelona bloggers’ would visit for 2 days and during this time had 3 main objectives:
- Introduce the Barcelona bloggers to the Leeds bloggers / fashion / music influencers
- Create an interesting project for collaboration in order to have some quality digital content for social media
- Give them some time to discover the city for themselves, in order to have differing opinions and experiences for the bloggers.
The first objective was achieved by having another bloggers’ reception in Leeds. During the event our Barcelona bloggers got to know the Leeds bloggers, fashion/music/cultural influencers and forge new relationships.
For the collaboration part of the strategy, we wanted to showcase Leeds designers and talent in an interesting way. We invited Leeds fashion designers, and independent retailers to provide clothing for a photo-shoot held in a building called Temple Works, featuring Leeds models but directed and managed by the Barcelona bloggers.
Before and after the photo shoot the bloggers had time to explore Leeds, interview and ‘cool hunt’ at their own pace which resulted in some amazing content.
The results from the project were exceptional: Every major blogger/influencer we targeted became involved in the project in some way. We stimulated great interaction between the Leeds and Barcelona participants which have now turned into on-going relationships.
Both the Barcelona and Leeds based ‘Bloggers’ Receptions’ were full to capacity and received great coverage. Numerous new relationships were formed at these events, both international and local.
We covered both parts of the project, (The Leeds in Barcelona trip and the Barcelona Bloggers visit to Leeds) for The Guardian Leeds online, through a series of guest blog posts, which documented the events and gave our own personal feelings and feedback on the project.
The coverage we received from the Barcelona bloggers was excellent. Influential blogs such as LeLook were featuring Leeds next to cities such as Paris, Milan and London when talking about trends and fashion which is a great feather in the cap for our city and this project. All the blogs showcased great visual material and interviews with their Leeds counterparts.
Obviously with a project like this, you never really know what people are going to find interesting and talk about. I feel Leeds sometimes chooses to promote and showcase things that are not actually that interesting to an international audience. Our guests from Barcelona chose to speak a lot about the vintage scene here, Kirkgate Market, The Nation of Shopkeepers: all things that are not usually prominent in our international 'sell'.
Here are just a few of the more the 30 separate pieces of coverage about the project:
What People Said
"I was expecting to come to Leeds and see a real grey, industrial city, but when I arrived I thought 'wow' this place is very cool. I have met so many nice and friendly people on this trip and definitely want to come back again." Fie, Stop Stealing My Look
“Leeds surprised me as a very beautiful city, with a lot more architecturally and culturally inspiring sites than I could ever have expected... The mix of re-generated areas around Temple-Works, historical locations like the Leeds market and the Arcade, together with some examples of modernist buildings were unexpected for me. I also met a unusually friendly, and very interesting, youth culture scene, full of great initiatives in fashion, music, and art. I would like to say thanks to all the great people I met in Leeds, and see you in the future!” Marcus, IED
"Regarding our overall impression, we feel that there is a cool side to Leeds which is mainly palpable through its numerous second hand shops. Most of the cool people from Leeds are definitely working and hanging around there, also the Nation of shopkeepers bar seems to be the meeting point of the most stylish from dusk till dawn. And on a more personal note, we loved the experience and we want to thank you again for wishing for us to be part of it" Carole, LeLook
We loved this project and feel it provides a interesting model moving forward: no expensive advertising campaign, no 50,000 print run: just engaging with the right people and stimulating relationships. This is how communication works now. Push marketing and being all 'about the sell' is increasingly outdated and ineffective: especially with a younger audience.
By creating just a small opportunity for creative collaboration allows people to take an active role in the project and have the feeling of ownership. There is no way that with traditional press releases these blogs and people would of been interested in what we had to say about Leeds, but by talking, collaborating and having fun, the results were fantastic.
With a lot of talk in the city at the moment about social media, collaborations and conversations, we hope this gives a really clear example of this type of communication working in the 'real world'.