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Belfast One One Belfast, Your Belfast

An open letter to the people of Belfast

The Challenge

The Bank Buildings presided over the intersection of Castle Street and Royal Avenue for more than 230 years. Despite its name, it had been a key retail location for most of that history and drew hordes of shoppers from near and far. But in August 2018, during a refurbishment that would have seen the store extended and improved, a fire broke out. This iconic building was almost reduced to ashes.

 

Belfast One, the business improvement district for the city centre, knew that they had to act quickly to limit the financial impact of this loss. They had to assure Northern Ireland’s shoppers that the city was open for business and thank them for their continued understanding and support.

 

AV Browne’s brief was to do it. Swiftly.

 

The Approach

We needed another Belfast icon to carry our message, so we took over the Friday evening Belfast Telegraph with a complete cover wrap. This would create the impact we were looking for, getting it into the homes of over 32,000 locals. It also had the space to detail practical information about what to expect in the aftermath of the fire and encourage shoppers to come in and support the businesses of Belfast One.

 

We used the right marketing tools to get the word out. Out-of-home, radio, press and social – each formed part of our plan to give coverage to individual retailers in the city centre and help them reach their audiences.

The Execution

Our Belfast Telegraph cover wrap took the form of an open letter to the people of Belfast. It featured a simple line drawing of the Bank Buildings and a message of thanks. We know that Belfast locals are immensely proud of their city and would rally behind a well-crafted call to support its businesses.

Our wrap and press ads raised awareness of the range of retailers in Belfast One. They mapped out how to best navigate the city centre around the fire cordon despite disruptions to traffic, pedestrians and public transport.

 

The retailers were front and centre in all aspects of this campaign. We visited retailers on every street, captured them at their storefronts and shared their stories on social media. We created ‘mini guides’ to each street, illustrated how to access them, and profiled the stores you could find there. These guides were especially important for stores in Castle Place, who were cut off from the main pedestrian thoroughfares by the safety cordon and most in need of a marketing agency’s services.

The Results

A year later, most of Belfast One’s retailers have withstood the setback of the Bank Buildings fire. A raft of new entrants opened their doors, including shops like Seasalt Cornwall, Guineys, Vans, Mac Cosmetics, and food and drink outlets like Chopped, Tim Hortons and Taboo Donuts. Matalan opened their first in-town format store and Tommy Hilfiger doubled its floorspace at Victoria Square. Primark continues to operate from a smaller unit behind the Bank Buildings and has opened a second store on Donegall Place. Belfast One, through continued public support, is thriving once more.