In December, against a background of civil disruption and negative images of Belfast playing out across the globe on multiple media channels, businesses in Belfast suffered one of their worst ever retail seasons. At a time when traditional trade would be high and businesses had planned on the basis of strong sales, large numbers of customers chose to avoid the City. Belfast traders were deprived of Christmas spending which they had needed and hoped for throughout a challenging economic year, with a further compound in early January when the evening economy particularly was hard-hit. Pubs of Ulster, representing some 1500 pubs and restaurants, were predicting year on year losses, imminent redundancies and business closures.
A response was needed to counteract the downturn in footfall, trade and confidence in the City.
Within four working days Ardmore created and launched the Backin’ Belfast integrated advertising campaign, led by social media. The social media strategy was to create a united call-to-action under one hashtag, one identity and one call-to-action. Simply put, the aim was for the residents of Belfast who had remained at home to avoid the hassle of the disruptions, to start socialising and shopping again. In short, we needed to engage residents of Belfast to support and share their backing of local businesses. We recognised that this would be achieved by spreading ownership of the campaign to anyone who participated in it. This needed to be a campaign for the people, championed by the people, to produce a result that would impact on their world in a positive way.
Within four weeks, the Backin' Belfast message had reached 10 million Twitter accounts and generated extraordinary goodwill and civic pride from the people of Belfast.
The Backin' Belfast message was on the news, it made it onto a BBC comedy radio show, celebrities from Northern Ireland endorsed it and famous visitors to the City backed it (from Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol to Mark Wright of I'm A Celebrity). More important than all of this though: the residents of Belfast championed it, and the conversation spread. And as the conversation spread so too did the positivity surrounding Belfast.
Overall, in the 8 weeks that the campaign was active, Backin’ Belfast delivered the following results:
- Almost 33 million Twitter impressions. (Source: TweetReach)
- 12 million Twitter Accounts Reached (Source: TweetReach)
- 25 thousand #BackinBelfast tweets and retweets. (Source: TweetReach)
- The campaign trended on Twitter in Belfast for five weekends in a row. (Source: Twitter)
- 3 out of 5 people actively used or shared a Backin’ Belfast offer or event from Facebook or Twitter. (Source: Millward Brown)
- 3 out of 4 people tried somewhere new in Belfast or organised a night out in the City as a direct response to the Backin' Belfast campaign. (Source: Millward Brown)
- 9 out of 10 people said the campaign had encouraged them to go out in Belfast in the evenings. (Source: Millward Brown)
- 8 out of 10 people said the campaign had encouraged them to go out in Belfast during the day. (Source: Millward Brown)
- Belfast businesses donated offers and giveaways worth £500,000 to the cause.
- Twitter EMEA emailed us to compliment the campaign on its activity and to remark on its “exemplary use of hashtags”.
- Belfast experienced the second-highest footfall of any City in the UK (second only to Greater London). Footfall in every other City increased by 0.8% year-on-year during February and March. In Belfast, footfall increased by an extraordinary 2.6%. (Source: Northern Ireland Retail Consortium/Springboard Footfall Report).
These figures have been attributed by business leaders across the UK to the Backin’ Belfast campaign.