Though he may roam the globe, James Bond will always be a British gentleman. But is his intrinsic tie to the Union Jack marketing gold? Great Britain’s tourism board is betting roughly $1 million that it is.
To coincide with 007’s 50th birthday this Friday (the 50th anniversary of the release of the first Bond film, “Dr. No,” not the first Ian Fleming novel), VisitBritain will launch its largest ever film tourism campaign centered on the latest Bond iteration, “Skyfall,” due to hit theaters worldwide this fall.
Here’s what VisitBritain wants you to know: “Bond is Great Britain.” That’s the slogan of the tourism board’s campaign, which hopes to season Britain’s turgid image with the adventure and intrigue of 007 (a la current James Bond Daniel Craig and the queen’s “parachuting” stunt at the Olympics).
Karen Clarkson, VP of VisitBritain North America, said the tourism board is the only official destination partner on the film and, thus, was given special permission to use “Skyfall” imagery, the logo and Daniel Craig’s likeness in its promotional material.
Twenty-one countries -- including key markets like Australia, Brazil, Germany and the U.S. -- will be treated to a string of cinema, press and outdoor advertising campaigns developed around the idea that Bond is not just the creation of an English author, he is Great Britain. Furthermore, the tourism board will launch an interactive online experience called “Agent UK,” designed to engage prospective travelers with social media. Those that accept their mission will take part in five online tasks set across the country that will help them to identify the hidden location of a rogue agent. The prize: One lucky winner will be flown to the UK courtesy of British Airways to “Live Like Bond,” an adventure that entails taking a master class on how to make the perfect martini (shaken, not stirred), driving an Aston Martin, scoring some Globe-Trotter luggage and staying in the Radisson Blu.
Just as Scotland did with “Braveheart” and New Zealand is doing with the coming “Hobbit” trilogy, Britain hopes to transform filmgoers into travelers.
“It’s what we like to call vacation on location, and it’s something Britain excels at,” Clarkson said. “We’ve worked with several films over the year like ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ ‘Robin Hood’ and ‘Bridget Jones,’ but we’ve been a little more low key.”
Why this Bond film and why this year? Clarkson said the 50th anniversary combined with the success of the Bond/Queen bit at the London Olympics made it the perfect time to leverage the franchise.
VisitBritain claims that, on average, 120 million people worldwide will see a blockbuster film in the first three weeks of its opening and that research shows that film locations can be a major draw for overseas tourists. Moreover, it claims that almost half of potential visitors to Britain say they want to visit places they’ve seen featured in films or TV.
For example, VisitBritain research suggests that following the release of “Robin Hood,” visitors to Nottingham rose 5.5 percent, while Alnwick Castle, the location used for Hogwarts School in “Harry Potter,” experienced a 230 percent increase in visitors and £9 million ($14.5 million) in spending due to the “Potter effect.”
While “Skyfall” locations like the already popular National Gallery, Whitehall and Greenwich are unlikely to see such dramatic bursts in visitor numbers, as the longest-running film franchise of all time, Bond’s overall appeal spans destinations and demographics.
“He represents the quintessential British gentleman,” Clarkson asserted. “A lot of men aspire to be him and a lot of women aspire to be on his arm.”
There’s a certain timelessness to Bond, she added. He’s got one foot in the past and one foot planted firmly in the future.
With each film partnership, VisitBritain believes it can offer a view of the nation through a different lens. With “Harry Potter” and “Robin Hood,” it was swords and surrealism. In its biggest push to date, VisitBritain hopes “Skyfall” will be a windfall, attracting Bond wannabes from around the world.