The story of why Bombay Sapphire opened a supermarket at the Design Museum


Ogilvy PR (with AMV BBDO and the Design Museum) won the “Most Effective Use of Creativity” category at the Drum Awards for PR 2021 with his campaign for Bombay Sapphire. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveals the secrets of this successful project …

The challenge

The pandemic has forced us to make decisions about what we believe is essential. The arts and culture sector has been declassified. The galleries were the first to close and the last to reopen. Thousands of creative people have lost their livelihoods.

Bombay Sapphire saw an opportunity to set a precedent for how brands can behave at times like this. During the year which has proved to be devastating for the creative community, Bombay Sapphire wanted to show its support and demonstrate its belief that creativity is an essential part of being human.

The strategy

Our strategy was born from what was happening around us. In 2020, 90% of museums around the world had to close, with 13% of museums fearing that they would never reopen (Source: UNESCO). This restriction on creativity is detrimental to everyone and it has been scientifically proven that creativity can make us fulfilled and happy. For Bombay Sapphire’s target audience known as Expressionists, who relentlessly seek new sources of inspiration and discovery, we had to do something. The notion of “creativity breeds creativity” was at the heart of our brief: the more you see around you, the more inspired you will be. Our strategy was to rally our audience around the idea that creativity is absolutely essential.

Creativity had been undermined as a result of the Covid. The galleries closed because they were not considered “essential”, which had a negative impact on the creative communities. But essential stores have been allowed to open. Bombay Sapphire has therefore transformed the Design Museum into a supermarket, allowing it to reopen despite the restrictions linked to the pandemic.

The countryside

We’ve collaborated with 10 emerging artists to turn essentials into works of art – from rice and toilet rolls to fruits and vegetables – all at supermarket prices, making art accessible to everyone. And all proceeds from sales were used to support artists through the Design Museum’s new Emerging Artists Access Fund – a “pay it forward” program that empowers aspiring artists and designers and future creators. Free access to the Design Museum’s exhibitions, conferences and events, including networking and mentoring events, supported by Bombay Sapphire.

When the question of what qualifies as ‘essential’ was highlighted by the pandemic, we championed the idea that creativity is truly essential – bringing our message to life by finding a loophole that allowed us to reopen a museum as an essential store. It’s basically a PR stunt idea, with a compelling, learned narrative that engages the media through news and culture. By delivering a creative experience to the public while the art spaces were still closed, we have had a PR story rooted in culture but with a human truth at its heart – that creativity is an essential part of life.

The results

Visitors and money raised

  • The supermarket was open 5 days between April 21 and April 25, 2021.
  • It was visited by 25,867 people, online and in-store.
  • By the end of the week, Supermarket had completely sold out all products (with online stock sold out after just 8 hours).
  • £ 115,000 was raised for the Design Museum and the Emerging Designers Access Fund.

public relations metrics

  • We have produced 66 leading print and online cover stories including The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, Time Out, The Evening Standard, Vanity Fair and Wallpaper.
  • Plus 7 hits broadcast including Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast London, BBC London News and Sky News.
  • The total campaign reach is 31,811,160 (Cision’s digital reach).
  • Our impact measurement and key message delivery were both 97%.
  • We took the top spot for share of voice in UK and Western Europe during the Supermarket opening period.

Social metrics

  • 84.01 million impressions in total.
  • Total range of 29.09 mn.
  • 94% positive sentiment on IG.
  • Social media referrals to the Design Museum website 20 764.

“A rather nifty trick to experience art up close without breaking any rules. With the closure of cultural institutions, this is the only way for the museum to open ”- BBC News

“It’s a great idea and I love the look of the products – such a smart way to fundraise for artists and bring more art into kitchens” – Lisa Markwell, The Time

This project was the winner of the Drum Awards for PR 2021. To find out which Drum Awards are currently open for applications, Click here.


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