This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.
What do you when you are the official airline of Team GB and Paralympics GB, the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are taking place in your home city, where to its residents your whole raison d’être is to fly them elsewhere?
Well, tell your passengers not to fly. That’s what BA did ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.
In a series of print adverts and a TV advertising campaign, BA simply told people not to fly, stay at home, and support the home team.
In the TV advert a British Airways Boeing 777 aircraft is being prepared for take-off at Heathrow. Instead of taxing to the runway, it makes its way to the Olympic Park in Stratford, passing a number of London landmarks (Trafalgar Square, The Palace of Westminster, The Shard) on the way.
The advert features many touches that show attention to detail, such as the seat belt sign being activated as the aircraft passes a speed bump on the road.
The clever move behind this campaign is that it is easy for people to be cynical about brands supporting major events and appearing to simplify piggyback on the achievements of others. This avoids that. Though of course by the time the campaign was run those who had already decided to leave London during the games had already made plans.
This campaign was the work of Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) which of course prized the BA advertising account away from M&C Saatchi in 2005. They have since lost the account to Ogilvy.
It’s fair to say that BBH spent much of its time with BA fighting a rearguard action, such as the chaotic opening of Terminal 5 and the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis. However, this campaign is one example where they had the freedom to proactively develop an innovative campaign with confidence.