NB Communication

Digital campaign sparks interest in Up Helly Aa

The return of Shetland’s Fire Festival Season after several years of covid cancellations presented a prime opportunity to build a dynamic digital marketing campaign.
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How NB helped
March 17, 2023

The return of Shetland’s Fire Festival Season after several years of covid cancellations presented a prime opportunity to build a dynamic digital marketing campaign.

As part of its work running the Promote Shetland destination marketing organisation, NB Communication devised a three-month publicity campaign to raise awareness of the festivals.

A combination of co-ordinated digital and social media activity, including paid and organic campaigns, PR, advertising, competitions, and email campaigns reached tens of thousands of people.

Dramatic events

From early January through until the end of March, Shetland’s winter nights are illuminated by a series of Viking-inspired Up Helly Aa events.

With each festival including a torchlit procession, the burning of a replica longship known as the galley, and a full day of events led by a Jarl’s Squad dressed in exquisite Viking suits, Up Helly Aas are undoubtedly dramatic.

That helps attract tourists to Shetland through the quieter winter months, and the 2023 campaign sought to build on that interest. What is less well known outside of Shetland is how important the festivals are in bringing communities together. Both elements were celebrated as part of the 2023 fire festival campaign.

The successful campaign included several complementary elements:

  • Creation of a new microsite at shetland.org/fire
  • Redesign and redevelopment of uphellyaa.com to host livestream events
  • Partnering with NorthLink Ferries to run a giveaway, attracting over 30,000 entries
  • PR and media management
  • Strategic digital advertising campaign
  • Paid social campaign
  • Influencer visits
  • Working with Shetland actor Steven Robertson to voiceover a campaign film
  • Commissioning and briefing photographers
  • Creation of engaging short vertical films for social media, including the newly launched Promote Shetland TikTok account

NB developed a strategic marketing plan to guide the comprehensive and varied parts of the project to achieve target objectives.

The Fire Festival campaign was able to build on the successful Find Your True North project which previously highlighted why Shetland is an exceptional place to visit during the winter.

Strategic marketing

NB Communication’s head of content marketing Adam Civico said the unique appeal of Up Helly Aa season provided the ideal inspiration for a far-reaching campaign.

“Fire Festival Season is a special time in Shetland, so it was a pleasure to share what it’s all about with a large new audience.

“We wanted to tell the story of community involvement in Up Helly Aas across Shetland as well as recognising the spectacular sights and sounds of torchlit processions and galley burnings. By co-ordinating a range of activities across multiple channels the campaign reached tens of thousands of people with targeted messaging.

“It is pleasing to see activity across a range of media – from TikTok influencers to traditional print outlets. Each part of the campaign complemented the other with a core proposition influencing the way every bit of content was produced.”

VisitScotland’s Shetland Development Manager Steve Mathieson added that the campaign helped highlight the spectacle of Up Helly Aa giving a welcome boost to the tourism industry in Shetland.

“It is fantastic to see fire festivals returning to communities across our islands. Promote Shetland’s campaign celebrated that by showcasing the drama and spectacle of Up Helly Aa across multiple platforms.

“We know there are many visitors to Shetland attracted by our festival season and it is heartening to see numbers returning to pre-pandemic levels. Ongoing marketing campaigns, like that led by Promote Shetland are undoubtedly having an impact.”

March 17, 2023

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