City Branding. Semana Santa in Spain. The Impact of World Youth Day Madrid 2011

Mega events and city branding

Mega events are an extremely valuable tool for developing city branding strategies. Planned events with global or at least international media coverage are powerful means to increase city brand visibility and awareness.

We have some perfect examples of a smart use of sport event to create brand awareness, using for instance strategically name logos, like Australian Open in Melbourne

Another more valuable mechanism is to design the event TV broadcasting in a way that pushes the viewer to discover the beauties of the city. We have some canonical examples with Tour de France last stage at Paris Champs Elysées finish or the New York City Marathon, Formula One Monaco Grand Prix or the magic images of the Olympic divers with Barcelona view as window.

Hosting mega events is also a way to increase city brand equity by associating it to values linked to the event. Hosting successfully mega event increases the attractiveness of cities as business and conference venues as they show organizational abilities and welcoming visitors. Mega events are thus also used as mechanism for creating or modifying previous perceptions about a city or country brand. This is one of the main legacies that emerging countries like China, South Africa or Brazil obtain from organizing the leading sport mega events: the Olympic games and FIFA world Cup.

We run for instance a brand impact analysis of FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa (You can access here to full report, in Spanish) Sections 1 and 2 show the impact of the sport success for the winning team Spain, in Spain international reputation in the media. Chapter 3 shows the media impact and the media reputation impact for one of the hosting cities, Cape Town.

Hosting selective events is also a way to associate a city to specific brand values, useful for tourism or business goals as becoming a hub. This is for instance information technologies and hosting the Mobile World Congress.

Mega events are also widely used as a showcase to publicize the attractiveness of a country as tourist destination. All hosting cities try to take advantage of the massive but short live global media attention to present with images and messages the main attractiveness of the city or other cities in the country. Typically all sport mega events count with an opening and/or a closing ceremony in which the main values of the cities are presented in an artistic way.

We had recently one of these examples of taking advantage of a global event as a tool to present to the world an element of the artistic and cultural heritage of a country in a very creative way, as a composing element of the storyline of the event.

 World Youth Day Madrid 2011

Madrid hosted the last World Youth Day (WYD) in August 2011. This is a global event created by the Roman Catholic Church to gather young Christians from all over the world in a series of spiritual meeting and celebrations, that are closed in their final stage with an encounter with the Pope. It uses to gather hundreds of thousands of young people. Rio de Janeiro will host 2013 edition. Some cities hosting the event before Madrid were Sydney (2008), Cologne (2005), Toronto (2002), Rome (2000) or Paris (1997).

The Way of the Cross and Holy Week Processions

The Via Crucis, The Way of the Cross is a typical practice made by pilgrims in visiting Jerusalem, but it is also followed in Catholic communities, considering 14 moments. This practice counts with a tremendous popularity in Spain during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) of remembrance of the Passion, as a popular, cultural, artistic, spiritual and/or religious experience. In many places artistic sculptures representing one of these moments are transported in ritual public procession for the veneration of the public. They are called ‘pasos de Semana Santa’.

Semana Santa processions correspond to one of these ‘typically Spanish’ things, as it is a tradition with deep roots in Spain but not elsewhere in Europe. There are some other processions in other cities in Latin America. As said, they are a combination of religious event with strong components of culture and art, as some sculptures are true artistic treasures from the Renaissance and the Baroque. Musical accompaniment is also part of the artistic spectacle, with bands and spontaneous arias, the so special ‘saetas’.

Semana Santa processions are part of the Spanish cultural heritage and they are in some places one of the main elements of the city brand.

 World Youth Day Madrid Promoting Spanish Semana Santa Processions. A Nice Matching.

Madrid WYD organizers decided to include a new event in the celebrations program. They included a meditation about the suffering and death of Jesus by following the traditional Via Crucis, The Way of the Cross followed by the Christ between condemnation and crucifixion.

The Pope presides yearly one Via Crucis in Rome, by Holy Friday, the day Jesus was crucified.

Instead of using images created for the occasion, organizers called from dioceses from all regions of Spain to provide ‘Semana Santa pasos’ relating to each station of the Way of The Cross. Like this Madrid counted with a Semana Santa spirit in the mid of the summer. World Youth day counted with 15 sculptures and compositions coming from eleven different cities in Spain.

Seville counts probably with the most well known Semana Santa traditions both in Spain and abroad. There are also other cities strongly associated to Semana Santa as city brand, like Granada, Málaga, León, Zamora.

The most popular Semana Santa ‘pasos’ were not present in Madrid. The event, with massive media coverage, allowed other cities in Spain to increase awareness as Semana Santa city brands.

You can chek in the video all pasos.

The Via Crucis with Pope Benedict XVI and the crowd of youngs received international media coverage and live TV broadcasting in many countries. Of course, it received massive media attention in Spain.

Our perception is that, besides the spiritual and religious impact of the event for the participanting people and viewers following the events, this original Way of the Cross was a perfectly designed city branding operation.

  • The event created a strong emotional impact of these hundreds of thousands of young people attending the event, some from Spain, and many others from abroad, mainly Europe and The Americas. Problably many of these young people discovered the existence of the artistic and emotional content of Semana santa processions in Spain.
  • People watching the events by television abroad consisted in a perfect target for promoting the attractiveness of Semana Santa events in Spain, as they are religiously sensitive tourist consumers.
  • ‘Neutral’ people not attached to catholic religion could discover the existence of the artisitic value of the sculptures thanks to the media exposure of the World Youth day events.

Measuring the media impact of World Youth Day and the Semana Santa pasos

We run a media impact analysis of WYD at Media, Reputation and Intangibles center, in order estimate the impact of the event for the brands Madrid and Spain. We presented some results of the report by August 2011. You can check here a summary of some results, in Spanish.

The event created some 54,000 news globally, with a massive national media impact of 30,000 news. We find that the World Day Youth (and its successful organizational development, and high level of satisfaction of participants) acted as a relevant media ambassador for Madrid brand, as some 40% of all news in European media about the capital of Spain were related with the youth event.

Applying media content analysis, we were able to identify the single events that received more media coverage. According to our results, the list of event ordered by number of news received was:

  1. Vigil gathering and final Mass with the Pope in Cuatro Vientos (6730 news)
  2. First meeting with youth in Cibeles square (6250)
  3. Welcome address and farewell in Barajas airport (3820)
  4. Via Crucis at Recoletos (3670)
  5. Welcoming with young representatives from 5 continents, Puerta de Alcalá (1700)
  6. The Pope confessing young people at Parque del Retiro (1460)
  7. Recpetion with Spanish Royal Family (1140)
  8. Meeting with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (1070)

The Way fo the Cross with the Pope was thus one of the reference events of the visit. It provided relevant media impact to the ‘pasos’ selected and to the cities where the sculptures came from.

We close this post by presenting the list of pasos and cities that benefited the most of the original WYD initiative, that should be translated into an increased touristic attractive during this Semana Santa in Spain.

1. Virgen de la Soledad, ‘La Regla’. City: Sevilla. (432 news)

You can check here a video taken from its procession in Madrid during the WYD. It represents quite well the Semana Santa at Seville atmosphere.

2. Cristo de la Buena Muerte. City: Málaga. (380 news)

3. Cristo de Medinaceli. City: Madrid (243 news)

4. Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno. City: León. XVII century (240 news)

See for instance the impact of Semana Santa traditions in creating city branding, with the cover chosen by New York Times to show how the Holy Days are experienced today by Jews and Christians. New York Times selected an image from Semana Santa in the city of Zamora, in the North West in Spain (Castilla y León region).

Examples of Religious and Artistic Elements of Semana Santa in Seville and Andalusia

We close this post with a selection of videos caputing some of the cultural heritage linked to Spanish Semana Santa traditions. This is a tradition built by generations sharing popular religiosity and a deep artistic soul. As you will appreciate, Semana Santa processions are storngly linked to local folklore: flamenco, cante hondo bulerías, saetas, poetry. It receive arabic, gispy influences.

As this is a living tradition, it creates, as explained, a powerful city branding vector. The promotion received by the Wolrd Youth Day Via Crucis should represent an increase of the city brand value of the cities and localities most strongly associated to Semana Santa processions.

El paso. Movements

Explanation of ‘pasos’ marching from Wikipedia:

A distinctive feature of Semana Santa in Seville is the style of marching of the pasos. A team of men, the costaleros (literally “sack men”, for their distinctive – and functional – headdress), supporting the beams upon their shoulders and necks, lift, move and lower the paso. As they are all inside the structure and hidden from the external view by a curtain, the paso seems to move by itself.

Depending on weight (most weigh over a metric tonne), a paso requires between twenty-four and fifty-four costaleros to move. Each brotherhood has a distinctive way to raise and move a paso, and even each paso within the procession.

 Holy Week in Seville, Wikipedia

Sierpes. Triana. Sevilla

Music. The Marchs

Music. Saetas

I copy some extracts from Wikipedia entry for ‘Saeta’, as it is useful for understanding the context of the musical pieces.

The Saeta is best known for its mournful power during Holy Week in Spain, when by Catholic tradition the song is performed during the processions by religious confraternities that move through the streets of cities and towns in southern Spain. Possessing a plaintive emotional intensity, and dramatic charge, the Saeta is sung by the saetero, often from a balcony, and may be addressed to the statue of Jesus below, in his agony on the Via Dolorosa, or to that of his suffering mother Mary

Saeta (Flamenco), Wikipedia

Poetry. El pregón, Domingo de Ramos

Voice is in Spanish, with no translation.

Poetry. Capataz del Paso. Manolo Santiago.

The ‘capataz’ , the overseer, guides the ‘paso’ team by voice and by a ceremonial hammer. He has the mission to ensure the accurate rythm of movements. He also encourages and supports the ‘costaleros’ and normally proposes spiritual considerations linked to Christ suffering. We propose in the next video an example of the task of a renowned and cherised capataz, Manolo Santiago. His comments were full of poetry.