Corporate Watch : G8 Report : GLENEAGLES: Lexis PR and corporate sponsorships

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Sponsorship of FCO activity should not be regarded as an exercise in philanthropy. Companies will require agreed commercial benefits, laid out in a contract, in exchange for their support. In an increasingly competitive market, it is important to establish whether or not sufficient value can be offered to interest potential sponsors.


'Identification of detailed benefits at G8 and EU Presidency Informals'1

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which is organising the G8 summit, has awarded a contract to Lexis PR to secure corporate sponsorship for the event.

According to a Freedom of information request obtained by Corporate Watch, Lexis' priorities include to find companies to provide essential services including transport, IT and telecoms and to find 6-8 'partner' corporations to contribute £250k - £300k each. Lexis organised a reception for corporate leaders in the Summer 2004 to encourage them to sponsor events and set up follow up meetings. As an 'official partner', corporations are promised 'branding credits' on G8 and EU conference materials including the delegate and media official handbooks and 'goodies', as well as access to meetings/networking opportunities. There is very little detail on the actual networking opportunities available, although there is mention of a 'Sponsors' thank you event' as well as 'the allocation of places to sponsors for attendance at activities'.

For £25,000, in cash or services, firms can become 'supporters' of the summit and receive limited access to promote themselves. With such extortionate prices, however, by February 2005 only one Scottish firm had expressed an interest in being represented. Exactly how the G8 will be an opportunity to sell Scottish firms to the world thus remains unclear.2

Scottish Enterprise outline how goodie bags will be gifted to the media and all conference delegates, and that all companies that provide 'corporate gifts' will be credited. In a fantastic greenwash attempt, the Scottish Enterprise website highlights how, 'There is a strong preference for iconic Scottish products such as shortbread, toiletries, Scottish drinks and items that reflect the sustainable themes of the summit such as fair trade and recycled products.3

Lexis PR is a highly successful independent public relations company based in Central London. Lexis has recently come to prominence after winning a number of high profile PR awards, most notably Marketing Magazine's 2004 PR Consultancy of the Year Award, as well as picking up Best Consumer Marketing Communications Campaign, and Best Corporate Marketing Communications Campaign in the 2004 PR Week Awards. Lexis' 2003 revenues totalled £4.6m and are set to rise further when 2004's results are announced.

Lexis offers the full range of public relations services including consumer PR, corporate PR and business-to-business PR, with specialisation in consumer healthcare and sports.4 Its clients include Diageo, the Rugby Football Union, Kraft Foods and Coca Cola GB.5 Lexis's most high profile recent campaigns were the 'What Women Want' campaign for Dove soap, in which it commissioned research about women's attitudes to the women in the Dove Soap advert and spun it into a story in its own right, as well as handling the crisis over Coca Cola's 'Dasani' brand bottled tap water.6



Government PR contracts

Private PR companies having been picking up government communications contracts since the 1980s. The Thatcher government was supported by PR and advertising companies (Lowe Bell, Dewe Rogerson, Saatchi & Saatchi) who were rewarded with a series of highly lucrative contracts to promote privatisation and other government information campaigns. The 1984 privatisation of BT had a promotional budget of £25 million, British Gas (1986) - £40 million, and the electricity companies (1989) - £76 million.7

During the 1980s the PR sector grew enormously. Between 1979 and 1998 revenues multiplied by a factor of eleven in real terms.8 Of course the increasingly close relationship between PR companies and government that these contracts engendered has given the companies greater access on behalf of their corporate clients as well, helping them to increase their government relations work. Both the Major and Blair governments have continued the trend. By 2001 almost all government departments and agencies were contracting out communications tasks to private PR agencies.

The recent Phillis Review of Government Communications may herald an even greater shift towards private contractors facilitating government communications. The Independent Review of Government Communications chaired by Bob Phillis (CEO of the Guardian Media Group) was set up in the wake of a series of government 'spin' scandals (notably the Jo Moore and Martin Sixsmith row) in order to examine government communications and how to deal with the breakdown in trust between government, the news media and the public. Within two months of the review being presented one of the public relations professionals on the committee, Howell James (of Brown Lloyd James) was appointed as the first Permanent Secretary for Government Information, a post whose creation was one of the central recommendations of the Phillis committee.9 It seems likely that Phillis' recommendations will be interpreted in such a way as to favour more private sector involvement in government communications and hence more dubious techniques pioneered in the private sector.






References

  1. Document obtained by Corporate Watch under the Freedom of Information Act. March 2005
  2. Eddie Barnes, 'Scots firms outgunned in G8 partnership', The Scotsman 13.02.05
  3. Scottish Enterprise website www.scottish-enterprise.com/sedotcom_home/about_se/procurement/tenders/g8/g8-sponsorship.htm last viewed 30.3.05
  4. '“Consumer PR” is the application of PR techniques to the marketing of products and services; “corporate PR” concerns more general reputational issues; and “business-to-business” (or B2B) PR regards communications within the business community.
  5. For a more complete list of clients see www.lexispr.com.
  6. Trevor Datson, 'Coca Cola Admits That Dasani is Nothing But Tap Water', Reuters 04.03.04
  7. Bob Franklin (1994), Packaging Politics: Political Communications in Britain’s Media Democracy (London, Edward Arnold) , p103.
  8. Miller & Dinan (2000), 'The Rise of the PR Industry in Britain, 1979-98', European Journal of Communication 15:1 pp.5-35
  9. Leader, 'Paying for Dictators', The Guardian, 26.03.04, www.guardian.co.uk/leaders/story/0,,1178268,00.html, last viewed 08.03.05