Trams ‘will be magnet for advertisers’

Tram testing on Princes Street. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Tram testing on Princes Street. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THE battered reputation of Edinburgh’s tram line won’t deter advertisers from buying promotional space on the service, a leading marketeer has claimed.

John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, insisted that major firms would vie for advertising space once the transport system was proven to work.

Mr Donnelly, the commercial brains behind Glasgow 2014, also believes that corporate sponsorship of trams and tram stops – “where the big money lies” – was likely to attract big airlines given the terminal’s proximity to Edinburgh 
Airport.

The marketing guru’s analysis comes after the Evening News revealed Edinburgh’s trams were set to become giant advertising billboards in a move expected to generate up to £1.5 million a year.

Wrap-around advertising is expected to be commonplace while naming rights for individual tram cars and stations may also be auctioned off.

Even the Gogar tram depot roof could be offered up to sponsors keen to catch the eye of passengers flying in and out of the Capital.

Heritage groups have warned against blanket 
advertising, however, and the Marketing Edinburgh boss stressed promotions must be sensitive to the city’s World Heritage status.

Mr Donnelly said: “The new tram infrastructure presents a massive opportunity for Edinburgh to generate significant income for the city and it makes complete sense that we explore every opportunity. What big brand would not want the chance to advertise in Edinburgh?

“The problems with the trams won’t deter sponsors or advertisers. When the system is up and running anything about previous problems will be forgotten in the eyes of an advertiser because they are thinking about the now, not the past. What they want is get their message out to their consumers and the tram represents a fantastic medium to do that.”

Airline companies would be a “natural fit” for major branding or sponsorship deals and an “obvious go-to place”, he said.

And while advertising interest may be gradual he expected it to rocket once the system was worn in.

“As a brand owner you stand back and watch and make sure the trams actually work before you start putting your name against it,” he said. “You don’t want to put your name against something that isn’t proven.”

While a marketing strategy is yet to be rubber-stamped, council chiefs have insisted that “everything is on the table” as they work to claw back some of the £776 million shelled out on the project.

But Marion Williams of the Cockburn Society said widespread advertising could tarnish Edinburgh’s character.

She said: “With the coffers empty the city is up for sale and we can look forward to ads everywhere, including on the trams.

“Edinburgh has long been a destination city because it has stunning architecture, amazing landscapes. I fear we will lose that very special sense of place with the anywhere architecture, no sense of arrival and moving ads everywhere.”