Barcelona: “Una Capital Que Inspira”
When you walk around the city of Barcelona, you probably have seen many posters with the phrase “Barcelona, una capital que inspira” lining the streets. Translated, this phrase means “Barcelona, the city that inspires” and is the slogan for the city’s brand image campaign. Barcelona is known for being a center of leisure, nightlife, tourism and culture. With a focus on the creative class and the power of the people, the “Barcelona Inspira” campaign emphasizes a proactive, creative approach and is an invitation to take action. According to Marc Puig, Director of Communications for the Barcelona City Council, “The city’s attributes should be welfare and economic progress, whilst never forgetting equality and the spirit of partnership. All of these values should support a social commitment based on a culture of happiness and a culture of innovation.”
Barcelona has not always been the well-renowned metropolis rich in beauty and culture that it is today. The global image and perception of the city is known for its drastic and successful transformation from a struggling post-industrial city to a flourishing center for tourism. In order to understand Barcelona in the present, it is important to understand the city’s past.
During the Franco regime from 1939-1975, Spain had nearly 40 years of political and cultural isolation. Urban development was unregulated and the strategies emphasized expansion and growth rather than revitalization and regeneration. After the decline of Fordism and industry in the mid-1970s, Barcelona became a post-industrial city and could no longer rely on manufacturing to employ its citizens as a result of the global economic downturn. After Barcelona entered its post-industrial state, public space was controlled, limited and under surveillance by a dictatorship. Neighborhood Associations formed with the goal of bringing the government to attention to the underdeveloped and ignored neighborhoods in the city. They used protests to demand improvements to the infrastructure as well as access to public space. The protests were a success, and during the mid 1970s and 80s, urban development was characterized small-scale projects designed to improve the quality of life for the people. However, Barcelona was still struggling to financially sustain their economy until the arrival of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games.
The 1992 Olympics jumpstarted Barcelona’s urban renewal along its main waterfront areas. With the need for large venues and a strong infrastructure, Barcelona capitalized on this opportunity to reevaluate neglected ports, gentrify the ignored neighborhoods and put Barcelona on the map as a well-known metropolis. Montjuic was home to the bulk of the venues used for athletic competition including the sports palace, swimming facilities, and the Olympic stadium. The Olympic Village and port were constructed on the opposite side of central Barcelona along the coast. Billions of dollars of public and private money went to the building of housing, restaurants, nightclubs, and leisure space in preparation for the games. In addition, the Olympic Games transformed the urban planning of the city to focus less on small community projects, and take on larger ones that would have a greater range of impact on the city as a whole.
The idea for the infrastructure was to open up the city to the sea and to rehabilitate the beaches. One kilometer of beaches was added in front of the Olympic Village, and the Olympic harbor was built with the capacity of 700 boats in the water and 300 on shore. The seaport promenade was 30 meters wide and designed for pedestrians with the addition of cafes, restaurants and other facilities along the seafront. The highway was developed and an expressway was built underground to reduce traffic.
The hosting of the Olympics had an immediate impact on tourism and greatly boosted Barcelona’s public image. Through broadcasting, marketing and advertising promotions, the city was put on display for the world to see. Barcelona had always been rich in culture and history with a pleasing climate, but the newly revitalized and modernized appearance of the city is what caught people’s attention and sparked interest.
Barcelona is now identified as a major tourist destination and receives more than 7 million tourists per year today. It has one of the best reputations on a global scale, ranked 6th in global brand image by the 2009 Anholt-Gfk Roper City Brands Index, and named to have the third strongest European city brand by the Saffron European City Brand Barometer.In an attempt to further investigate the effectiveness of the “Barcelona Inspira” campaign and the urban renewal of Barcelona, I interviewed a handful of study abroad students about their perception of the city.
Based on the answers from the students and the characteristics that they associate with Barcelona, we can see that the city exudes positive thoughts and images associated with happiness. The interviews also reveal some weaknesses in the brand image campaign, and could prove helpful to marketing executives in perfecting the city’s brand. Overall, the “Barcelona Inspira” campaign is a reflection of the success that urban development has had on the city’s brand image and reputation, and is evidence of the lasting effect that the 1992 Olympics had on the redevelopment and image transformation of the city.