The Contribution of Festivals to City Branding

Lim, H. 2016. The Contribution of Festivals to City Branding. PhD thesis University of Westminster Property and Construction

TitleThe Contribution of Festivals to City Branding
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsLim, H.

The economic contribution of festivals and events has been widely acknowledged, but the relationship between a festival and city branding has received little attention. This thesis explores the role of festival stakeholders in the development of a city brand, providing a detailed account of city branding and festival sponsorship. The research focuses particular attention on cultural festivals by examining their role in the city branding process. To this end, one city (Seoul) and two festivals (Hi Seoul Festival and Seoul International Fireworks Festival) were chosen as case studies. A qualitative methodology based on semi-structured face-to-face interviews was determined to be the most appropriate approach for achieving the research aims. Ultimately, 46 face-to-face interviews of key individuals involved in festival and city marketing were conducted. All interviews were transcribed and coded by hand using thematic analysis. The research findings highlight differences in the two cultural festivals’ evolution and characteristics. Five key themes emerged: planning and management; sponsorship landscape;
government and regulation; cultural content; and the link between city brand and festival brand. One significant aspect of paying more attention to branding a city appeared to be the changes Seoul’s mayors made to the city brand slogan. Moreover, a festival’s influence on the city as either a tourism asset or branding tool emerged from the government’s role as festival owner and sponsor. Festival ownership and sponsorship in Seoul and South Korea are heavily influenced by political factors. The analysis of qualitative evidence collected identified two key issues: consistency and political leverage. Having a consistent festival identity appeared to be a significant factor which contributed to city branding, but this process was also affected by the consistency of city branding itself. Political leverage caused fundamental problems for festival identity and
city brand slogans in Seoul and improved strategic governance of festivals emerged as a key priority. Strong leadership and stakeholders’ cooperation are needed to ensure consistent management of festival identity. Based on these findings, the research concludes with the recommendation that reduced government involvement and increased private sponsorship provide the context in which festivals might make a more significant contribution to city branding.


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