Bloom — a powerful marketing vehicle supported by powerful data

Gary Graham

Posted: 29 June, 2018

Bord Bia’s Bloom festival was held in Phoenix Park, Dublin over the June bank holiday. This year's event hosted 20 spectacular show gardens all vying to be awarded a prestigious medal following a rigorous 2-day judging process. Visitors saw garden designs that ranged from artfully functional to whimsically imaginative and that communicate strong topical themes.

To close this month’s theme, botany and plants, Gary Graham, manager of Bloom, Bord Bia has contributed a guest blog. Bloom, Ireland’s largest gardening, food and family festival takes place in Phoenix Park, Dublin. It is an annual showcase of the best of Ireland’s horticulture and food industry.

After a decade of judging the RTÉ1 Super Garden TV series, I am often recognised as the Simon Trowel-type persona who nonchalantly kicks loose paving slabs while shaking my head in deep disapproval. However, Super Garden only takes up a fortnight of my time each year. I spend most days with a hard-working bunch of colleagues in Bord Bia focused on the development,  management and promotion of the Bloom show that takes place in the Phoenix Park every June bank holiday weekend. With 120,000 visitors attending annually it has become a very big event requiring a significant investment of finance and resources. As you might expect, everything that we do in Bord Bia must be supported by a robust business case and every year we conduct multiple research projects around Bloom in order to measure the return on investment and to improve the offering and format. Bord Bia is responsible for the development of the food, drink and horticulture sectors and clearly at Bloom there is a sharp focus on amenity or ornamental horticulture and both professional and amateur gardening. This gardening and landscaping sector is valued at in excess of €1B (Bord Bia)

Our Bloom visitor and exhibitor surveys are conducted by Explori Media Ltd who work with both consumer and trade events across the globe. This provides us with valuable benchmarks. Currently they speak to millions of visitors and exhibitors across 1,900 events and they can select a number of B2C events with similar audiences to Bloom. Garden shows are not unlike gardens in that most of us have subjective and biased views on their value for money, aesthetics and functionality. These opinions are often based on childhood experiences and memories of simpler times spent with loved ones. Hence the need for strong quantitative data that can stand up against individual opinions often based on strong emotional perspectives. Visitors to Bloom are coming for a variety of reasons and these reasons are captured in our visitor survey. So for example, this year 63% stated that they came to Bloom for a good day out. Whereas 93% gave a range of other reasons for attending mostly linked to seeking inspiration and information for garden makeovers and projects. Values exceed 100% due to multiple mentions.  Last year 81% stated that they came along for the good day out. As Bloom is designed to attract both serious gardeners and non-gardeners who have yet to be converted to the joys and benefits of gardening we were particularly happy with the 81% figure. This year, when we mined the data a little deeper, we recognised that visitors were spending more at Bloom 2018 and hence the reduction from 81% to 63%.  In fact we discovered that visitors spent circa €10M at Bloom this year, an increase of €1M over Bloom 2017.

We also recognise that not everyone will travel to Phoenix Park on a busy bank holiday weekend, so Bloom’s success is also measured by AVE (advertising value equivalent) generated through our PR activities around Bloom. Last year the AVE came in at €3.5M.  This AVE translates into increased spend in the gardening category. B&A conduct a national Barometer across all adults who saw or heard the media coverage and were inspired to take action. Last year B&A estimated a Bloom-inspired spend valued in excess of €30M that took place in the weeks following Bloom.  While we wait in optimistic expectation of higher figures for Bloom 2018, I am satisfied that our qualitative research undertaken by Bord Bia’s Insight Centre (The Thinking House) will assist us in continuing to develop Bloom as a powerful immersive marketing tool. They summarised their findings as …

Bloom embodies the Irish food, drink and horticulture industry’s collective spirit!

That’s a piece of highly subjective ‘qual’ that I can work with.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are the author’s own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Irish Research Council or any employee thereof.

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