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How McCartney And Football Helped Liverpool In China

July 30, 2011

The city of Liverpool made a bold move in investing in exhibiting at the 2010 World Expo in its twin city of Shanghai, China. According to research in the journal Local Economy published by SAGE, the city is beginning to reap the benefits both of inward investment, and of a higher profile in, and strengthened relationships with China.

Liverpool was the only city in the UK to take the decision to promote itself at the 2010 World Expo, in the economically dynamic city of Shanghai, in a country whose economy is growing faster than any other, China.

During the 184 days that Liverpool’s pavilion was open it welcomed more than 770,000 visitors, and on its busiest day (22 October), it saw 8934 visitors. The Liverpool pavilion received just over one percent of Expo’s total 73.08m visitors.

Liverpool University spin out design company Uniform created the pavilion to include a wall of music, football from Liverpool and Everton football clubs including the opportunity for guests to have a photo taken with soccer stars past and present, and a welcome from Sir Paul McCartney. The ‘Macca message’ was one of more than 80 films created by Liverpool’s River Motion Group and preceded an introductory 3-D film featuring a Chinese dragon and a Liver Bird soaring above Liverpool.

Within a week Liverpool had been voted Best City Pavilion in the Urban Practice Area by visitors during the testing phase. It was recognized through four Urban Best Practice Area Expo prizes: Model City Pavilion Award; Best Operations Management Award; Best Worker Award; and Golden Host Award.

“We delivered a magnificent statement on our heritage, our assets and our future on behalf of the city, the region, the North West and all our sponsors,” according to Liverpool Vision’s Deputy Chief Executive, Mike Taylor.

Ninety-nine percent of visitors said that they would recommend the Liverpool pavilion to a friend. Critically, most visitors knew little about the area before visiting but left with a very positive view – 98 percent of visitors would consider visiting Liverpool after visiting the pavilion, 80 percent would consider it a good place to study and 71 percent would consider doing business in the city.

Expo stimulated local firms to broaden their trade horizons and look to China for future growth: 30 percent of sponsors said that they would not have participated in any international business activity in 2010 without Liverpool’s participation in the Expo. China would now feature in 75 percent of sponsors’ companies’ business plans for the next year. Twelve percent of sponsors had already secured sales or orders as a result of participating, and around 70 percent of sponsors agreed or strongly agreed that their involvement will generate sales/orders in the future in the £100,000 to £1m range.

The lead sponsor, The Peel Group, has already begun development of an International Trade Centre to attract Chinese firms on the Wirral side of the Mersey. Liverpool has also now opened a business embassy in London and Liverpool City Council is to appoint an investment and business manager in Shanghai to build and expand upon the World Expo experience.

Liverpool has also signaled its determination to develop more Chinese trade opportunities with the just-announced launch of the Liverpool in China network aimed at building on Liverpool’s presence at World Expo. A new trade mission to Shanghai in October will focus on the city’s creative and digital sectors.

Mr Taylor said: “It is vital that our momentum is maintained. Many organizations have already forged important links. We know the opportunities are there on an unparalleled scale and we need to do all we can to maximize them. This trade mission answers the Chinese desire to cooperate with overseas companies as they develop their cultural and creative industries and we have the expertise and skills to share. We are also developing a tourism strategy that will be aimed at ensuring Liverpool corners its share of this burgeoning Chinese market. Additionally Liverpool is appointing a chief representative in Shanghai, demonstrating our long term commitment to our sister city partnership.”

Bid background

Home to Europe’s oldest Chinese community, Liverpool had longstanding links with China. In 1999 a twinning arrangement was made with Shanghai followed by a Memorandum of Understanding in 2007. Liverpool was then invited to bid for the World Expo with the theme ‘Better City, Better Life’. During 2008 Liverpool was European Capital of Culture, and it also received news its bid for Expo for 2010 had succeeded.

Liverpool’s rise to pre-eminence in the 19th century was built on strong international relationships, so it seems prescient that the city is today forging stronger links with China. The city’s aims included exploiting its strong, international and instantly recognizable brand to forge global trading, investment and knowledge relationships as the west coast’s sea and air gateway.

The challenges of showcasing the city 6000 miles away included justification of the risk, financing the project (estimated to cost around £3 billion) and how to encapsulate the city’s highlights into a 30-minute pavilion experience that was lively, unexpected, entertaining, informative and most importantly memorable.

Consultants Scott Wilson suggested that the economic benefits to Liverpool and its region would be anywhere from £5.5m to £47.5m over ten years, from Chinese students and tourists as well as from increased exports and direct foreign investment. Funding for the pavilion came from the North West Development Agency (£1.25m) and the City Council (£300,000). The Peel Group, which is a leading company in Liverpool’s ongoing regeneration, along with 62 further organisations generated sponsorship of £800,000 over 14 months.

According to Mr Taylor: “Quite simply, it has put Liverpool on the map as a future investment destination”¦we are already seeing evidence of an increased level of inbound Chinese business delegations requesting to visit Liverpool.”

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