“Romania Land of Choice” – Branding Program Business Review – May 4, 2009
A new campaign that promotes Romania as a tourism destination was launched following a collaboration protocol between the Ministry of Tourism and BRD Societe Generale. Headed by the key line “Romania. Land of Choice,” the campaign has at its forefront three Romanian sports legends- gymnast Nadia Comaneci, soccer player Gheorghe Hagi and tennisman Ilie Nastase. It precedes the creation of the long-expected country brand for Romania and will run until the latter comes into force next year.
“In spite of the remarkable progress that Romania has made so far, it still has an image deficit abroad. It is totally abnormal that so little should be known about the Danube Delta or the country’s cultural heritage,” said Patrick Gelin, president of BRD.
“Romania, the Land of Choice” is a campaign that lies on the shoulders of three sports legends, Nadia Comaneci, Gheorghe Hagi and Ilie Nastase. The choice of these figures was not a random one, as Gelin explains. “Ilie Nastase, Nadia Comaneci and Gica Hagi, who have, each in his remarkable way, had a great impact on the world of sports, can successfully be Romania’s image vectors abroad.” Gelin said the partnership with the Ministry of Tourism is the result of an idea that was tested in BRD several years ago. “The campaign “unique cards in the world” was at that point- and still remains- the only one that has proposed and really succeeded in selling a Romanian banking product abroad. It proved then that the phrase “sports is one of Romania’s best ambassadors” is not a cliché but a verifiable reality,” he said.
Stefan Stroe, strategy director with Grey Bucharest says this decision to use Comaneci, Hagi and Nastase is “not bad.” However, beyond their charisma and awareness that will easily reach its limit, the Ministry of Tourism should also think about how they could motivate the Romanians living abroad to advertise their native country willingly, he says. “We have millions of Romanians abroad who would like to hear good things about Romania in their proximity.” He calls these people “advocates in reserve of the Romanian brand”- potential patriots who would make small promotion efforts for promoting the image of their country in their communities. “I think they should be the first to promote, followed by other well-known Romanians in the country,” he says.
Stroe’s vision of the campaign for promoting Romania as a tourism destination revolves around adventure and the unknown. “I think the strategy of a tourism campaign for Romania should be as realistic and inciting as possible and work first of all on the short term.” He specifically emphasizes that “it does not have to be beautiful.” Romania is, 20 years after the fall of communism, a tourism adventure, so that the tourists that we wish to attract should be those who desire “adventures in the east,” he explains.
The agency that is in charge with the creation of this campaign is ADDV Euro RSCG, which has collaborated with BRD over the last five years for the advertising campaigns in which Hagi, Comaneci and Nastase were the driving force. The campaign is scheduled to start in May and will continue until the launch of the country brand. It is supported by BRD and will be promoted by the Ministry of Tourism. According to Elena Udrea, the tourism minister, the entire campaign will cost several million euros, of which EUR 2 million will be used for running the campaign on two popular international TV channels. For this, a public bidding will be organized. So far, the campaign is only halfway through, as only postal cards and prints have been finalized. There will also be press ads, outdoor and television advertising. “The “Romania, Land of Choice” campaign will promote cultural tourism, eco-tourism, agro tourism, the seaside, Bucharest and Sibiu,” said Udrea. The countries which are most targeted are mostly European countries and the United States.
Udrea made clear the distinction between this campaign and the country brand. The deadline for submitting offers for the creation of the country brand was May 4. “We believe we will have the best country brand creators in the world taking part in this competition” she said. “We will most likely start the promotion of the brand next year,” said Udrea.
Previous branding campaigns have failed
This is actually not the first effort to brand Romania. In 2004, a campaign was made by Ogilvy& Mather, which required USD 1.7 million and which was called “Romania, simply surprising.” The campaign was cancelled three years later by Richard Batchelor, who headed the team of international consultants from the World Tourism Organization because “it did not communicate Romania’s essence to potential visitors.”
A second failed attempt was a campaign of the Ministry of External Affairs with the slogan “Fabulous Spirit” which cost USD 110,000. Stroe says the reason for which previous efforts have failed is because this was one of the most difficult communication strategy projects. The brand strategy should convey that “Romania equals the most beautiful adventure in Europe.” The symbols and people used in it should be compatible and representative for this direction,” says Stroe.
The agency that will create the Romanian tourism brand will be selected following an international bid. Among the criteria that participants will have to meet is to have worked on at least one similar project. The creation of the brand will cost EUR 2 million, while other EUR 73 million will be used for implementing it, which come from the funds of the European Union.