IMHO: Stupid sponsorship deals

 In Badvertising, London

Soon after I moved to London, I travelled on the Underground on the day of the 2015 London Marathon. The trains were on time and everything was good. Then I glanced up at the digital departure boards. One had a special ticker running along the bottom of it, proudly proclaiming:

“Today, Canada Water station will be renamed BUXTON WATER in celebration of the London Marathon. Grab a bottle of BUXTON from any good store!’ Or something like that.


Seriously. They renamed a train station for a sponsorship deal. For one day.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it’s the wisest idea to rename an ENTIRE DAMN STATION – a fundamental piece of London’s transport network, especially on a day when there’s so many new people in town. I can just picture the poor, exhausted marathon runners hopping on their trains back to their hotels and having the misfortune of thinking ‘oh, it can’t be this stop, this is Buxton Water’. And yes, that really happened: I have proof later.

Who on earth thought this would be a good idea? Nothing says ‘marketing’ quite like confusing the hell out of people when they’re trying to travel somewhere. And if that wasn’t bad enough, when researching this blog post I stumbled upon this video they produced for the launch of the campaign. Let’s explore:

“Transforming a station — calling it Buxton Water instead of Canada Water — really brings to life an activation within the Virgin Money London Marathon” 


An activation? What does that even mean? I couldn’t (as a consumer) give a rat’s arse about who the official water provider to the Virgin Money®™ 2015™® London Marathon™ was. Y’know, for the £110,000 Buxton reportedly dropped on this campaign, they could have probably paid someone to stand at every Zone 1 station and hand out special ‘souvenir’ bottles of their water. Boom: thousands of people reached, genuine interactions with the product, and an experience that people might remember for longer and might share more with others. I mean, which memory would you prefer – “I got that bottle when we were in London that time”or “ha, remember that time we missed our stop because it was renamed for some sponsorship deal?”. There might indeed be no such thing as ‘bad publicity’, but annoying travellers and confusing visitors surely doesn’t do much for brand sentiment either.

Like with most similar stunts, the only people who seemed to be impressed by this campaign seemed to be the people who also worked in advertising. Unlike most of the public, and these poor souls:

Bottle of Buxton: 85p

Underground sponsorship deal: £110,000

Confusing the hell out of tourists: PRICELESS

Olly Browning
Olly Browning is a freelance writer and designer based in London, founder of the creative agency Mighty Oak. Send your thoughts, hate mail, commissions, or any other business to, or tweet him @yourolly.
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