BBC Countryfile Live: 125,000 visitors, 10,000 dogs, and 1 headline sponsor with no idea.

Quilter event badge on checked shirt background - But what do they do?

I spent Sunday at this year’s BBC Countryfile Live event with a few members of my family. I can recommend it – a decent day out with plenty to interest foodies, animal lovers, ecowarriors and star spotters.

It’s the second time we’ve been and once again it was sponsored by those nice people from Quilter.

But what the hell do they do?

Any visitor to the Beeb’s bucolic bonanza couldn’t help but encounter the Quilter logo from the entrance onwards. From the liveried pesticide spreader guarding the main gate to the branded stage featuring a very good jazz trio when I passed, the carefully typographed logo (check out that lovely Q) to its modern background of polygons in various shades of a corporately agreed green, the brand was applied persistently and consistently.



If only I knew what they’re selling

I mean if you splash out a five or six-figure sum to sponsor a four-day event that attracts 125,000 people (and more than 10,000 dogs) it’s all very well raising branding awareness – but wouldn’t it be better to improve brand comprehension? 

A simple strapline or descriptor to help the poor visitor understand you don’t supply bedding might have been helpful. It might even have resulted in a few people expressing an interest in what you do.

As a marketer, I made a point of checking. “Quilter Cheviot is one of the UK’s largest discretionary investment management firms offering bespoke portfolio management with over £23.7 billion of assets under management” since you ask – probably a good bit of targetting given the high-end goods on sale at the event and the prices the food stalls seemed able to charge. But I seriously wonder how many other visitors would bother.

Perhaps they believe everyone already knows who they are and what they do (or those that matter anyway), which seems like breathtaking arrogance.

Or am I revealing my own ignorance?


Back to those 10,000 dogs

This is my sister in-law’s dog, Saffy, cosying up to the comely Kate Humble (not at the weekend’s event but that’s a different story).

Saffy and Kate Humble

Saffy was one of the 10,000 dogs attending BBC Countryfile Live this hot and sticky weekend. We noticed one stand doing a roaring trade in cooling blankets that were soaked and draped over panting pooches. But I noticed another phenomenon being deployed by savvy stallholders.

Bowls of fresh water.

Let’s be honest, most of us try to speed past the often desperate people staffing these displays. There’s a whole industry of ways to arrest people’s progress before they can swerve the once in a lifetime show only offer (magicians, jugglers, “Are you interested in your children’s future, sir?” “Nah. Sod ’em”).

But have you ever tried dragging a thirsty dog past a bowl of cold drinking water?

It isn’t going to happen.

The dog stops and shows limpet-like immovability. And you are the prisoner of that stand for the duration of your hound’s thirst-quenching.

More ambitious displays even had paddling pools in which dogs could drench their whole bodies before showering the crowd with a quick shake. But from what I saw, a simple bowl of clean, fresh water was just as effective.

It’s a smart tactic perfect for this kind of event.

The sort of clever marketing the corporate bigwigs from Quilter could learn from.

If you’re interested in more clever ideas for events and exhibitions, check out my friend Bill Bowden’s Book of Events here. It’s a free download based on more than 30 years in the business.