Bridging the Gap - Wapping Wharf's Bridge celebrations case study
Throwing a party for bridge reopening - unusual, we know, but the reopening of Gaol Ferry Bridge was a huge milestone for our clients Wapping Wharf, so a suitably large celebration was in order!
Wapping Wharf has been one of our favourite destinations in Bristol since they very first launched in 2016. Their ethos of supporting independents and giving small businesses a space to grow has always resonated with everything we stand for, so it was a bit of a dream come true when they approached us to take on their marketing last year.
Over that time we’ve loved immersing ourselves in their incredible community, getting to know them all and giving their marketing a new lease of life - but there has always been a challenge in the shape of the Gaol Ferry bridge. This key link from South Bristol to the city centre had been closed for works for over a year, and the reduced footfall through Wapping Wharf was having a marked impact on their passing trade.
However, in late August we received word from the council that we finally had a date for the reopening, and a date of Friday 8th September was set. And there was only one thing for it…a party of course!
There has been lots of discussion around what to do to mark the reopening of the bridge in the months prior so as soon as we had a date, it was all hands on deck. Having spoken with Stuart, managing director of Umberslade (the owner of Wapping Wharf), he gave us a very solid thumbs up, a budget and a brief to make it as fun as possible, ensuring we involved as many of the retailers as possible.
What they needed
What we did
Whilst the marketing work we do for Wapping Wharf covers the destination as a whole, it’s a unique client in the sense that within the community there are over 40 independent retailers, including bars, restaurants, shops and lifestyle businesses. This in itself requires more account management as a standalone client, as we need to make sure everyone is equally represented and all opinions are considered.
We began by reaching out to them all to float the idea of a party and give them an opportunity to put forward their ideas for promotions they could run during the event.
The response was overwhelmingly positive, with everyone extremely excited at the prospect of a celebration, and a wave of incredible deals and offers were put forward which we collated into several Instagram Story posts which we deployed from the Wapping Wharf social channels to ensure everyone was promoted across the run up to the event.
From an event organisation perspective, we set about booking performers, including Bristol’s much-loved The Ambling Band (an all pink, wandering brass band) and Batala Bristol (one of the city’s best drumming bands). The aim was to ensure there was plenty of entertainment on the night, but also to make sure the acts were able to move around the area, so they weren’t concentrated in one spot.
Once the event plans were in place we began liaison with the council and the Mayor’s office, to ensure everyone was on board with the plans and that all relevant health and safety and licensing considerations had been covered. We also created a joined up press approach with the council’s teams, ensuring we were hitting all of the key local titles to ramp up coverage in the run up, and also inviting press to the official opening.
Throughout, it was key to keep all of the residents informed of the plans, creating management plans which were circulated to let everyone know of timings and responsibilities, and also to keep the original excitement about the party going across all of Wapping Wharf’s social media platforms.
There was a huge amount of excitement ahead of the event, and when we arrived for our event briefing at 4pm on the day, Wapping Wharf was abuzz! Crowds were gathering on both sides of the bridge and there was a real party atmosphere in the air. Marvin Rees declared the bridge officially opened with a photo call with the city’s journalists and the residents of Wapping Wharf, and the crowds began to pour over the bridge, led by the drummers from Batala Bristol leading them through the Wapping Wharf thoroughfare.
Whilst it’s impossible to know how many people turned out for the event, Wapping Wharf was full throughout the night, with festivities going on well into the evening as we were joined by The Ambling Band, who had the crowds dancing as the sun began to set.
Social media stats skyrocketed, with engagement and reach across all platforms up well over 100% in both the run up to the event, and afterwards. There was also a wave of positive press coverage, and countless user generated posts of people showing their love for the bridge being officially back open.
It was such a joy to see Wapping Wharf back to its usual busy, buzzy self, and even more so to see the amazing people from its independent community so happy to have things back to normal…so much so there’s even talk of an annual celebration!