How home-grown brands, industries and institutions support the story of modern Britain
No one following the movements of David Cameron and George Osborne in recent weeks could deny that they are making good on their promise to put a focus on international markets at the heart of their long-term economic plan. The message, loud and clear, is that the UK is open for business.
Critical to the success of that headline message is the ability to sell the story of the UK as an open, outward-looking country that has the skills and expertise to embrace the future. For this, the UK needs not just advocates but examples, businesses and organisations that epitomise what UK plc is about. But which of our home-grown brands, industries and institutions best carries our global story? As they are sold, marketed and projected around the world, which British icons do most to promote the values we would like to put on display? Populus determined to find out.
We interviewed 4000 people in eight markets around the world ranging from established economies (the United States) through rising powerhouses (India and China) to emerging nations (Nigeria and Indonesia) and asked them to score 15 British icons (from British universities and British film to Rolls Royce, British Airways and the Premier League) against a range of measures from being admired and trusted to being successful and globally recognised. We then analysed the results, some 60,000 data points in total, to find the “X factor” – that hidden attribute which came closest to combining all of the positive qualities we had tested. How much of this “X factor” each icon has is what determines its place in our British Icon Index league table.
What distinguishes the performance of the Premier League is the breadth of its appeal: it is top among men, second among women, and in the top two for every age group up to 55. In particular, the Premier League is able to reach and engage a younger, more affluent global audience than any of the other icons tested.
This favourable impression of the Premier League positively influences views towards the UK: 84% of those polled across all the markets say that the Premier League makes them feel more positive towards the UK; only British universities (88%) have a stronger impact. The effect is even greater among young affluent people, 90% of whom say the Premier League has a favourable impact on their attitudes towards the UK.
The Premier League’s impact is also consistent across all the markets in which we polled: it is in the top five positively influential icons in every market except the USA, and the impact is especially strong in emerging nations where the Premier League has a significant presence: 97% in Nigeria and 92% in Indonesia.
Our research shows that of the many effective advertisements the UK has for what it wants to say about itself – modern, successful, exciting, open, inclusive – the Premier League is the strongest, and of the many things which the UK produces it is Premier League football that is most likely to get through to the next generation of global leaders. No wonder David Cameron was only too happy to pose for a selfie with Sergio Aguero and President Xi of China.