The Art And Science of Marketing Manchester


Marketing, it is often said, is halfway between art and science. I would have to agree, but for many our ‘artistic’ side is much more obvious. A lot of our most public facing work at Marketing Manchester is about crafting campaigns and concepts that capture the imagination and position our city-region as a place people want to visit, live, invest and learn in. You will hopefully have seen, and remember, some such as our iconic Santa campaign, created in partnership with Manchester City Council, TfGM and Heart of Manchester BID, that sells Manchester as a Christmas shopping destination (it was recently shortlisted for Best Integrated Campaign at the Roses Creative Awards). Or our Halloween campaign that helped increase footfall by 20% over the Halloween weekend and generated £740,000 in media coverage. We also craft campaigns for international markets such as our ‘It All Starts in Manchester’ promotion targeting US consumers. It framed our city as the place visitors can start their adventures in the north of England and included the incentive of a free pint in a Manchester pub for passengers on the new flights from Boston and San Francisco.

We also flex our creative muscles in other areas, such as the video we created for the European science conference ESOF on the Peppered Moth, which captured Manchester’s continual transformation and adaptability in a clever visual allegory. Thanks to our partnership-led approach we are able to deliver these campaigns with small seed investment that is boosted by funding leveraged from our national promotional partners and private sector stakeholders.

Sheona's Blog 12But it is the cool hard ‘scientific’ side of our work that drives these campaigns. Our long-term strategy for the visitor economy is evidence-based and determined by identifying emerging markets and demographic segmentation. Our work to attract investment in areas such as Advanced Materials, Life Science, and Digital, Creative and Technology is underpinned by in-depth analysis of our region’s sectoral strengths. We are serious about evaluation and continuous improvement, measuring our success through our key performance indicators, which we have recently published the figures for for the last financial year. They paint an encouraging picture. Tourism is now worth £7.9bn to Greater Manchester’s economy, a 5% rise from the previous year. This is being driven by an increase of international visitors, which were up 3% to 1.38m and the 107.9m day visits from people across the UK. Together this helps support 94,000 full-time tourism jobs across Greater Manchester.

Our domestic campaigns have increased visitor spend in the region by £70m and reached 119m consumers. Our press team have hosted 206 journalists and helped generate £8.5m in coverage reaching 290m people, while our conference bureau attracted 38 conferences that will bring 15,000 delegates to our city and help generate £25m for the local economy. Our investment team undertook over 1000 business-to-business engagements and reached a potential 62m people through press work. Our website, meanwhile, attracted over 2.5m visitors and we have over 210,000 Twitter followers and 80,000 followers on Facebook.

These are encouraging figures and work is now well underway on the campaigns and projects to build and improve on them this year, because, like Greater Manchester, we are serious about delivering tangible returns on investment. When you think about it our city-region is also a great mix of the artistic (with our superb culture, sport and nightlife) and the scientific (our growing economy and our key sectoral strengths) which makes it a pleasure to sell its story on the national and international stage.




Over the past few years BuzzFeed has become a publishing phenomenon, growing from a small obscure website specialising in viral content into a multi-million pound media company. It built this success largely by perfecting one form of content: the list

It’s easy to see why. In our busy world, when we don’t always have time to commit to long-form articles, or are accessing the internet via our phones, lists help us to breakdown and understand complex information. They are immediate, accessible and enable us to make quick comparisons.  Lists, and their off-shoot the listicle (a cross between a list and an article), now dominate the internet. From the Top 10 Summer Hairstyles, to the Seven Most Important Points From The Budget, there’s a list and ranking for practically everything, and, unsurprisingly, cities are no different. Marketing Manchester monitors Greater Manchester’s position on a number of these international indexes to monitor how our city-region compares to its peers. The UN City Prosperity Index, for example, ranks cities on metrics such as productivity, infrastructure and social inclusion, while the Anholt City Brands Index, measures presence, place, people and potential. We can use these indexes to benchmark our international standing, set our aspirations and inform our city’s strategic direction. In the Anholt index, for example, we are currently rated as 27th in the world and it is our goal to be in the top 20 by 2035. A challenging, but achievable target

Lists and rankings also help us to promote our city as they provide attractive and punchy stories for the media. As a dynamic, outward looking city-region, Greater Manchester is no stranger to securing top places in these articles. Last year, we were awarded the accolade of one of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016. Recently the San Francisco Chronicle has heralded us as a place to go in 2017 (a great boost as our cities are about to be connected by direct flights), the Hip Neighbourhood’s Index rated Ancoats as the coolest district in the UK, and the Global Liveability Survey ranked us as the UK’s most liveable city (again). On the investment side we have been ranked by KPMG as one of Europe’s top cities for business competitiveness, the leading Large European City for Foreign Direct Investment Strategy by the Financial Times’ fDi magazine, the European Digital City Index ranked us as one of Europe’s top 20 digital cities, and we are the most successful city for attracting FDI outside London according to EY’s UK Attractiveness Survey 2016. In the conference sector Smart Meeting’s has marked us as one of the top 10 Emerging International Meeting Cities and Cvent rates us as one of the top 25 meeting cities in EMEA. These rankings not only help mark our past successes, but also help gained the attention of new stakeholders and secure new business.

What perhaps is less well understood is Marketing Manchester’s role in securing these rankings and accolades. We are constantly working with journalists to build relationships, meeting them at trade shows and events and organising familiarisation trips so they can see the best our city has to offer. For other awards we have to research and submit detailed application forms so that the judging panels can make informed decisions. We also work to secure coverage of our rankings in the media and on the internet. This press is important, because it not only reaches a wide general audience, but strong coverage in the trade and sectoral press can carry significant weight in areas such as conferencing and inward investment.

As we move forward into 2017 we will be looking for further opportunities to secure Greater Manchester’s position on more high-profile lists and surveys. We will also be monitoring our position on the international indexes to insure we are on track for our 2035 targets. I know that our city-region is one of the best in world, this type of coverage, is a brilliant way to prove it to other people.


Food and Drink in Manchester

sheona-southern-marketing-mcr23 If you talk about Greater Manchester’s food and drink scene for long enough one topic is sure to come up, ‘Where’s the Michelin star?’ Even though restaurants in the region are booming we haven’t been awarded one since 1974. With other cities such as Liverpool and Birmingham boasting a constellation of accolades it’s peculiar that we always come up empty handed.

Does it really matter? Well, from a marketing point of view it would certainly put Greater Manchester on the food tourism map. For some international visitors a Michelin-starred restaurant is just as important as a trip to Old Trafford or a cultural asset like the Whitworth. But, as an assessment of our food and drink offer it’s only one, narrow metric. As I said before our restaurant scene is currently going from strength-to-strength.  Hardens Best UK Restaurant guide, based on a survey of 7,500 regular restaurant goers, recently ranked Manchester as the city outside London with the most high quality eateries, with 52 entries.  Every week there are new venues opening, ranging across the spectrum from high-end dining and hotel brasseries to tapas and street food, with cuisine covering everything from Indian, Thai and Italian to Brazilian, French and Vietnamese.


El Gato Negro

In part this is linked to the regeneration of the regional city centre. In the decade between 2001 and 2011 Manchester city centre’s population increased by 20,000 – an astounding growth of 83% – and if that trend has continued it is fair to conclude that it may have grown by at least another 10,000 since the last census. Most of these people are young professionals, drawn to the city to take advantage of its thriving economy and jobs in the science, finance and the creative and digital sectors. They have large disposal incomes and when you combine this with the trend of young people eating out more it’s no surprise this has led to a flourishing bar and restaurant scene. You only have to wander around the Northern Quarter on a Saturday or Sunday morning to witness how popular Instagram-able meals like brunch have become, and food has also been a driving force behind the regeneration of areas of such as the Corn Exchange in the Medieval Quarter, and Spinningfields in the financial district. This not only creates a vibrant city centre but it is important for our economy, as these restaurants contribute to our region’s cultural offer, which helps attract and retain the skilled workers we need to drive our growth and productivity.

Food is also important for promoting our region. In the past year Marketing Manchester has hosted 65 journalists from publications including GQ and Australia’s The Saturday Paper to write about our bars and restaurants. This helps us attract international visitors, who like to sample a mix of local and global cuisine, including familiar dishes from their home countries. In fact I would encourage more restaurants to pitch themselves better to the international market, for example by providing their menus in Mandarin or by championing themselves as exemplars of local produce. (Marketing Manchester runs China Welcome Training for venues interested in learning more in how to target this market and they can also sign up to VisitBritain’s China Welcome Charter). This is also why events such as Manchester and Bolton’s Food and Drink Festivals are so important as they help attract visitors and promote the broad range of what our region has to offer. This is true also of the renovation of places such as Bury and Altrincham Markets, the latter of which won the Observer Food Monthly Award for best market in 2015.


The Refuge by Volta

Our food and drink sector is constantly evolving and it has made significant progress over the past few years. It is driven by the passion and the energy of the people who work in the sector and I am excited by recent openings such as Samuel Buckley’s Where the Light Gets In in Stockport (which received a loan from Business Finance Solutions, a sister MGC company) and the three new restaurants coming from Michael O’Hare, including The Rabbit In The Moon, which is set to open in the space above the National Football Museum. They will be joining other fine dining restaurants such as The French and Manchester House, and will continue to position Manchester as a culinary hotspot.

Alongside developments in our street food scene, our independent cafes and our packed calendar of gastronomic events I would say that Greater Manchester’s food and drink sector is as stunning as ever. In fact, in January we are planning to do a significant push on food a drink to kick-start what we are informally calling our ‘Year of Food and Drink’. You can expect to see lots of new content added to the Food and Drink section of our lovely new website, plus lots of great social content and some foodie themed press work. If you’d like to speak to us about collaboration on this project, please do not hesitate to get in touch using the comments.

Bon appétit!


The legacy of sport

sheona-southern-marketing-mcr23On October 17 Manchester welcomed our sporting heroes in the Olympic and Paralympic Parade in Manchester city centre. As well as being a moment of national celebration, and a chance to once again to put Greater Manchester in the spotlight, the event was a clear illustration of the attraction of sport and how it can be used to boost the tourism and visitor economy. Marketing Manchester were involved on the day to handle the media and made this video.


In many ways Greater Manchester’s regeneration over the past three decades has been linked to sporting successes … and also disappointment. Our city-region twice bid to host the Olympic Games – in 1996 and 2000 – but both times we were not awarded the prize. Some would have stopped there but, as any sportsperson can tell you, it isn’t how you celebrate your successes, but how you recover from your setbacks, that matters. I know this feeling well from my experiences as a triathlete.

The bids encapsulated and galvanised Manchester’s renewed vision of itself as a confident regional city ready to complete on the world stage. Taking this energy, and the lessons learnt, we bid for and won the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The Games were a pivotal event in Manchester’s recent history, boosting our profile and catalysing investment. A Cambridge Policy Consultants report in 2002 found the games created 6,300 jobs, attracted 300,000 new visitors and generated £29m in increased tourism. The bid also led to the regeneration of East Manchester, including the development of Sports City, the very place where many of today’s Olympians – including cycling golden couple Jason and Laura Kenney – do their training.


Manchester is now home to a host of world-class sporting venues. Sports City includes the Velodrome, the National Indoor BMX Arena and the National Squash Centre. Nearby, in Gorton, the National Speedway Stadium opened earlier this year; in Trafford we have the Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground, and in the city centre the Manchester’s Aquatics Centre is another direct legacy of the Commonwealth Games. Other venues, such as the Manchester Arena, also play host to high-profile events such as boxing and NBA Basketball.  And of course we welcome annual events such as the Great Manchester Run, Bolton’s Ironman and the Salford Triathlon.

And, of course, our city-region is home to two world-class football teams, Manchester City and Manchester United. For many people around the world Manchester means football and it is a key component of our international brand. A 2013 New Economy study estimated that football was worth £330m for our local economy per year. A large part of this is by boosting tourism. Hotel occupancy on match days is boosted on average by 15% and one-in-eight international visitors come to Manchester for a football game (in contrast to a national average of one-in-forty). Football tourism not only impacts positively on the conurbation by attracting visitors who would not otherwise have come, but also by attracting higher-spending visitors – international visitors who watched a game of football spend around £800 compared to the average of £600.

chinaOver the summer football was integral in our marketing campaign in China to support the first direct flight from Beijing to Manchester. The sport is rapidly gaining Chinese fans so we supported the three International Champions Cup matches in the country with events, advertising and marketing. As a part of this we helped generate 52 articles around the games, worth more than £400,000 with one of our main messages being that Manchester is the home of football. Being the host city of to two high-profile clubs can also prove attractive to key stakeholders, as seen when President Xi visited Manchester City as part of his state visit to our city.

Business tourism also benefits from the presence of the two football clubs in the city. For example, Manchester Central recently hosted the Soccerex Global Convention, a conference bringing together the global football industry for networking, speeches and workshop. Manchester’s strong history and current dominance of the sport is a strong pull factor for the event which attracts over 3,000 delegates and brings nearly £2m into the local economy.

Global competition in the business and leisure tourism sector is fierce. We are lucky to have sport as such a strong component of Greater Manchester’s story. At Marketing Manchester we will continue to utilise this strong association to attract visitors, businesses and investment to drive jobs and growth for the people of our region.


The Manchester Miracle and Urban Entrepreneurialism

Sheona Southern Marketing MCR23A recent article in CityMetric, the New Statesman’s urban online magazine, explored the phenomenon of “The Manchester Miracle” and the transformation of our city from one of industrial decline to urban regeneration. The most obvious manifestation of this change is in the buildings and neighbourhoods that surround us. You only have to walk around our region to witness it for yourself. Whether it’s the iconic silhouette of the Beetham Tower, the digital and creative cluster of MediaCityUK or the beautiful buildings at One St. Peter’s Square, our region has welcomed an incredible amount of development and, in turn, more jobs, homes and growth. And there is more to come. The area around the Old Granada studios is being transformed into St Johns’, a new neighbourhood mixing commercial and residential space and the new £110m arts space, The Factory. In the city centre a consortium of partners, including former footballers Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, want to build St Michael’s, which will include two 30-floor skyscrapers, and on the north of Manchester city centre an eight hectare area around the Co-Operative headquarters is set to become NOMA, a new quarter of homes and shops.


Artist’s Impression of St Michael’s development

Many of these developments were first showcased at MIPIM. Held in March every year in Cannes, MIPIM is the world’s largest property fair. A three-day event, it offers regions, such as ourselves, unrivalled access to the key players in the international property sector, enabling us to promote ourselves to partners and investors.

Another aspect of “The Manchester Miracle” highlighted in the CityMetric article is Manchester’s ‘urban entrepreneurialism’,  an approach where local government works closely with the private sector. MIPIM is a great example of this. Marketing Manchester and Manchester City Council help co-ordinate the project but at its heart it is a private-sector led initiative. We have been attending since 2000 and over time the importance and our presence at the event has grown. Last year we organised the largest partnership we had ever taken to the event, with 99 partners and over 200 delegates. This made us the second largest delegation out of 550 cities in attendance, allowing us to create more of an powerful impact in a crowded global marketplace.mipim

Following the EU Referendum result some people may say that we should pull back from events like MIPIM,  that we should scale back and wait out the uncertainty. But this has never been Manchester’s approach. We are a optimistic, outward-looking and confident city-region. Now is not the time to stand back or dampen our ambitions, but to move forward with bold new plans. That is why this year we will be making a step change with a larger delegation and a new, more prominent venue. Next year the Manchester Pavilion will be located outside on the prestigious Croisette, placing us on the same level as global cities such as Paris, London and Istanbul. It’s a strong and clear statement of the scope of our ambitions and long-term strategy. This new extra space will also enable us to provide a broader more comprehensive programme, a more diverse range of speakers and an exhibition space so our private-sector delegates can showcase their offer under the Manchester brand.


MIPIM 2017 launch. Photo: Daniel Norton 

All our work is driven by the Greater Manchester Strategy, our vision to make our region one of the best cities in the world. One of the key components of this is building a global brand and MIPIM helps position ourselves on the world stage as a growing city looking for investment. Last year we generated over £1m in media coverage and reached over 14m people in publications such as the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Estates Gazette. MIPIM also helps us to create jobs and growth. The St Michael’s development, for example, is estimated to generate 1,000 jobs. This is only possible through the involvement of foreign investors from China and Singapore.  Events like MIPIM are one of the best avenues to reach and influence these investors.

We have now launched the partnership for Manchester in MIPIM 2017. Companies and organisations can get involved at a number of levels, which will allow them to promote their brand or project under the Manchester umbrella. More information is on our dedicated website.   I am looking forward to working together with our partners to make next year’s delegation the most successful year yet and to continue to build Manchester’s global city status.

Reflecting on the inaugural Greater Manchester Tourism Conference

Nick Brooks-SykesLast week I was pleased to chair Greater Manchester’s first Tourism Conference at the newly refurbished Palace Hotel. Over 150 delegates attended the full-day event which featured talks, presentations and workshops from high-profile speakers, looking at the future direction of the region’s tourism industry.

It was a thought provoking day and, based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback received from delegates, it’s certainly something we are going to look to replicate in the future.

There were a number of highlights, but our most popular speaker was undoubtedly the international travel commentator and senior travel editor at The Independent, Simon Calder, who provided a ‘view from a critical friend’ on how Manchester can improve its tourism offer.


Simon Calder

In his entertaining talk, Simon praised the city as the site where the modern world began, and told the room that Manchester’s challenge is now to translate this rich heritage for the 21st century. He suggested that Greater Manchester needs to push the ‘Gateway to the North’ message further, emphasising how useful Manchester is as a springboard to access the North of England. This is, of course, something we have been working on for a number of years and it is heartening to know that Simon agrees with this strategic direction.

Simon stressed that international visitors also need to be made aware of how accessible Manchester is from the capital, and suggested that we should target visitors around London train stations – perhaps in partnership with rail operators. London’s gay village was also highlighted as an area where Manchester could make a mark, perhaps with a pop-up on Old Compton Street and deals to encourage them to travel north.

He also called for improved Wi-Fi access across the city, claiming that Wi-Fi is now the most important thing to a visiting guest. This is something I absolutely agree with and if any hotelier reading this is still charging for Wi-Fi, it’s time to rectify it.

And while he praised our free Metroshuttle bus network, he expressed that Piccadilly Station can be confusing to first time visitors, and could be made easier to navigate; a very valid point which we will raise and seek to improve on.

His tips landed well and gave everyone on in the room plenty to think about and many new ideas I’m sure. But Simon was just one of several speakers at the Greater Manchester Tourism Conference.


Simon’s talk, as interpreted by Two Vis Think

In the morning’s session, interim mayor Tony Lloyd discussed the importance of the Metro Mayor role in giving Greater Manchester a unique voice and identifiable name to push forward the city’s tourism offer.

Sheona Southern, managing director of Marketing Manchester discussed Manchester’s aspirations to become a truly global city, the goal for the tourism industry to reach an economic value of £8.8bn by 2020, and the region’s bid to host the 2025 World Expo.

Nick Merriman, director at Manchester Museum stressed that culture is vital in positioning Manchester against uncertainty and change, and the need to spread attention to regional cultural institutions across Greater Manchester.

simon-calder-audience-2Later in the morning Patricia Yates, director of strategy and communication at VisitBritain, noted that it was important for the tourism industry not to fixate on rivaling London, and to look instead to compete with global cities with similar offers. She also stressed that in the ongoing Brexit discussions, the country needs to recognise the tourism industry’s role as a job creator, an export industry, and important part of the country’s industrial strategy.

Colette Roche, deputy managing director of Manchester Airport, closed the morning session with an overview of Manchester Airport’s progress into the third largest airport in the UK, and future plans as part of its £1bn transformation programme.

A series of workshops in the afternoon allowed delegates to explore a range of key issues – from digital marketing and ways to build cultural destination, to incentive travel and responsible tourism.

The day was captured by the excellent Two Viz Think, who watched and visualised the various talks, creating a fantastic mural which – whether you attended or not – you can appreciate below (downloadable file here). It’s a wonderful reminder of a great event filled with dialogue, conversation and ideas to build on over the coming months and years.


How football tourism boosts the Manchester economy

Nick Brooks-SykesNext month Soccerex, the event that brings together the global footballing industry, will be coming to Manchester. Held on 26 to 28 September at Manchester Central it will bring together more than 3,000 delegates for three days of insight, networking and business. This is the third time the global conference has returned to our city and really there could be no better host.

Manchester is a globally-recognised sporting destination and we are incredibly proud to be home to two of the world’s greatest football clubs.

Football can play a major role in the development of a city, and the profile it has around the world.  Manchester United and more recently Manchester City have contributed a huge amount to the city’s tourism industry, with visitors travelling from far and wide to watch a match or take a stadium tour.  The relocation of the National Football Museum to Manchester in 2012 has brought another half a million football related visitors per year to the city.

In 2014, Old Trafford attracted 109,000 overseas visitors, the joint highest figure with Arsenal’s The Emirates, and City was in 6th place with 33,000 visitors. The expansion of the Etihad Stadium to a capacity of 54,000 in 2015 has enhanced its ability to accommodate international visitors with a further expansion to over 60,000 planned over the coming years.  Also, a remarkable one in ten visits to the North West of England from overseas includes a visit to a football match (Visit Britain, Football Tourism Scores 2015).

It’s clear then that football plays a significant role in attracting tourism to Greater Manchester which in turn provides a real boost to the region’s economy with the average occupancy rates of hotels on match days at 85% compared to 70% on non-match days.  For example, when the Etihad Stadium held the UEFA Champions League match between Manchester City and Real Madrid, occupancy rates in the city were at 97%.(STR Global Occupancy Rates).  Football is also proven to attract higher-spending visitors; overseas visitors in the UK who watched a game of football spent an average of £856 compared to the average inbound international visitor to the UK who spent only £626 (Visit Britain, Football Tourism Scores 2015).

One of the world’s fastest growing markets for football is China and the launch of Hainan Airlines’ direct flight route from Manchester to Beijing in June will undoubtedly boost the number of Chinese visitors to our Premier League venues.

In July Marketing Manchester supported the International Champions Cup matches between Manchester United, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing. Unfortunately the derby between United and City was cancelled due to heavy rain before the match, but we were still able to use the event to promote our city as a destination for tourism, regeneration and science.

The audience for Premier League football is the largest of any football competition in the world and Manchester’s profile in both domestic and overseas markets has a very strong association with elite football.  The arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and of Jose Mourinho at Manchester United will bestow the city with two managers who are widely regarded as among the best in the world.  The footballing spotlight will be shining on Manchester once again and we expect that the already massive numbers of football related visitors will only increase during the upcoming season.

Nick Brooks-Sykes
Director of Tourism, Marketing Manchester