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April 4, 2008

Ian Irving: Why are brands flocking to The O2?

I have a reputation for ‘saying it like it is’, but it’s a trait that landed me in the middle of many a negative debate during the early noughties when the Dome’s profile was at its peak – but not for the right reasons.

My wife and her sister worked on the main arena show at the Dome and I was privileged to be invited to the Millennium Show. This was my first experience of the ill-fated structure, and to be totally honest I was very negative about the entire experience. It seemed to me that it was just another chance for the creatives to let their imaginations run riot and for the production companies to make a ton of cash.

Sledge has enjoyed a long relationship with O2, and we have worked hard at bringing its brand to life over the years, so it came as a huge surprise to hear their intention to take a lead partner deal for the Dome. I have to be honest and admit that I was the first to say that it would never work and that people wouldn’t travel that far out of town.

Feel the buzz
But then I got a call from Lee Roberts at AEG inviting me to a tour of the marketing suite and the venue. It was at this meeting that I started to eat my words and I have been eating them ever since…

It is already clear that this space has reinvented itself as the home of entertainment. The O2 is a 20,000-capacity entertainment arena, and arguably the most significant addition to London’s live music scene in decades. Boasting 20 restaurants and bars, 11 cinemas and a smaller sister venue, The IndigO2, the state-of-art venue has already hosted sold out concerts for the likes of Bon Jovi and Barbra Streisand, with performances from the Rolling Stones, Scissor Sisters and Take That booked for the months ahead.

I have already attended a number of events at The O2 and it already has the buzz associated with a long established venue. Testament to this was when I took my wife and her sister to see Justin Timberlake and they were amazed that it was the same place they had worked all those years ago.

Experience counts
In addition to the entertainment provided by the clubs, bars, cinema and great eateries, the venue is also home to some specific O2 brand experiences – such as the ‘create and chill’ spaces, O2 concierge and the VIP Room. The incredible Blueroom bar houses one of largest interactive projection installations in the UK and the opening of the indoor beach saw RPM install a beautifully designed Martini experience. The evolving partnership between mobile and music is as engaging as ever and brands are flocking to be part of this exciting new entertainment experience.

I’m obviously very proud of Sledge’s involvement so far, but I think we should all watch this space very carefully. The O2 is looking set to be not only the home of entertainment, but it could also become the home of brand experience. But why?

I’d like to take this opportunity to ask my peers a few questions and open a debate: Why are brands flocking to be at The O2? Is it to be associated with the brand or is it simply an alternative way of engaging with this festival weary audience? Why does this space work for brand experiences? Because it is perceived as new? A blank canvas? Because of O2’s heritage of brand experiences? Or because of the Dome’s heritage as a gallery space?

Answers on a postcard to Irv of Shepherd’s Bush please…

Ian Irving is sales and marketing director of Sledge

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