Give us your money and we will put your brand name in lights.
That was the message as Illuminations chiefs appealed to companies for financial support for Blackpool’s annual seafront display.
Pressure on the council’s own budget means attracting private investment is more vital than ever to keep the Illuminations shining.
Celebrity designer and Illuminations ambassador Laurence Llewelyn Bowen addressed around 35 business chiefs who had been invited to the new Theatre Bar on Church Street last night to hear about the benefits of sponsorship.
He told The Gazette: “We have to be self supporting, there is no big pot of gold at the end of the Illuminations rainbow.
“The extraordinary thing is that for most of the 20th century, the funding of the Illuminations wasn’t down to businesses, it was something that was the responsibility of local government.
“But when you look at displays in Regent Street, the Las Vegas Strip or the Mardi Gras – the responsibility for those lies with the businesses which they benefit.
“If companies don’t get involved with the Illuminations, they will start to look dreadful and the result will be fewer visitors. What I want people to understand is that by sponsoring the Illuminations, they can come to me and commission a bespoke Illumination for their business.
“And it’s not crazy money. I think people will be amazed at how little it takes to get something really special, and all their money goes towards the creation of the Illumination.”
Among the companies due to attend the presentation were Virgin Trains, Genting Casino, Debenhams, Ibis, Freeport and the Pleasure Beach as well as smaller business owners.
For the first time a brochure has been produced setting out exactly how companies can sponsor the display.
Last year was the first year of a £24,000 three-year deal which has seen the Houndshill Shopping Centre sponsor the Alice in Wonderland tableau.
Centre manager Debbs Lancelot said: “In the first year alone, we have had £25,600 worth of free PR as a result of the sponsorship, so we have had our investment back in the first year, so it has been amazing.
“It is all about making sure you choose an Illumination to suit you and your company, and when you have mastered that it opens up so many avenues to drive it forward in other ways, for example through using social media.”
Last year £100,000 was raised through sponsorship, but that is only five per cent of the total £2m cost of putting on the display.
The council has also this year secured a £2m grant for the Illuminations from the Coastal Communities Fund, but that cash is to improve infrastructure rather than fund new features.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism on Blackpool Council, said: “The money the council puts in just keeps the Lights going but we haven’t got much money for new features and that’s why we say the business community has to get on board, so we can enhance what we have got.”