When we think of the city of Barcelona, a whole imaginary comes to mind, a kind of identity formed by its most popular tourist sites, but also by a series of values or sensations associated with it. This is the Barcelona Brand. According to Saffron’s City Tourism Brand Barometer 2020, this brand is seventh worldwide. This ranking compiles a classification of the 109 cities with the strongest and fastest-growing tourism sectors. Barcelona has climbed many positions since the last report, as in 2019 it was in 19th place on the list.

Can cities be branded?

Yes, city branding or place branding is used to create or enhance a city brand. These terms are based on the idea that places – cities, regions, or states – can be understood as brands. In this way, marketing techniques can be applied to them to achieve greater economic and cultural development.

City marketing can be defined as a vehicle for gaining a competitive advantage. It increases the attraction of investment and tourism, reinforcing local identity, and avoiding social exclusion. This advantage is achieved by communicating an attractive image of the city, evoking imagery, and controlling the tools to transform and explain the desired image. In cities with a well-established brand, companies will be keen to be associated with it. The city’s brand will have an impact on the values of the commercial brands.

What does the barometer measure?

The City Brand Barometer measures those aspects that tourists may want to consider when traveling. They first select 109 cities and look at the contribution of tourism to GDP. They also take into account emerging destinations, and try to get a balance to have representation from all continents. They also consider two separate measures, on the one hand, the city’s assets, what it has to offer; and on the other hand the reputation, how many people talk about it, and what their perception of the city is like.

How was the Barcelona brand consolidated?

If there is one event that helped internationalize the city and consolidate the brand, it is the 1992 Olympics. The Olympics put its hosts in the spotlight around the world. The opening ceremony of the 1992 Olympics was watched by almost six million viewers, making it the most-watched Olympic Games in history. In the case of Barcelona, it also involved a major urban transformation of the city, especially in the Olympic harbor.

In any case, the Olympics were not the only major event that internationalized the city. In 1929, Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition, to which we owe several national pavilions, such as the German pavilion, the Magic Fountain, the MNAC, the renovation of the Gothic Quarter, the Teatre Grec, and the completion of Plaça Catalunya.

If you are interested in city branding and other aspects of marketing, find out more about our MSc Marketing Management.

Sources: Fernando Rey, City Brand and the theory of social representation, Oliver Sutton, Barcelona y el City Branding: la ciudad como una corporación.

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