ECSP guest blog: The Solals are back! New awards recognise innovative talent at a challenging time

Europe’s retail property sector was disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, pushing its marketing efforts to be more innovative than ever. Last month’s launch by ECSP of the Solal Awards, recognises marketing excellence in retail and leisure destinations right across the continent. We asked Alan Thornton, Chair of the organising team, why the time is right to bring them back after a three-year gap.

There’s a famous quote that states ‘life is what happens to you while you’re planning something else’. Having spent the last two years buffeted by the Covid pandemic, I imagine many of us are grateful to have managed the turmoil as best we could. However, when I look back with our clients and colleagues at what we’ve managed to deliver, it’s amazing just how much successful marketing has been achieved.

It’s against this background that the Solal Marketing Awards are being re-launched. A few of the previous judges have stayed in touch since the Awards were last celebrated in 2019. There was a realisation that many great campaign ideas have not been recognised or acknowledged.

Marketing managers are a resilient bunch, as well as being famously creative, so it should be no surprise that the adversity of the pandemic also acted as a positive catalyst for marketing teams at retail shopping destinations across Europe. We’ve seen many imaginative responses to the challenges of communicating with customers during these difficult times. The re-launch in 2022 gives an opportunity for this ground-breaking work to be celebrated.

Why Enter the Solals?

Since the 1980’s, the Solal Awards have built a huge level of kudos within the destination marketing industry, thanks largely to the rigorous judging by leading industry experts.

As judges we often say that ‘You don’t get a Solal for doing your day-job’, so this is worth considering when you are preparing an entry. The subject of your entry really does need to be exceptional to stand out. Ask yourself – is the idea really innovative? Do the results exceed expectations? Could the entry inspire the industry? If the answer is consistently yes, then you should certainly consider entering this year.

The Solals have another advantage – there can be more than one winner in each category. Unlike the ‘Oscars’ where they celebrate just one winner per category, if there are lots of entries which achieve the judging threshold, then there can be multiple winners. So don’t be put off by thinking you don’t stand a good chance. Your application is being judged on its own merits, not against other centres.

Similarly, people often think that only big centres with larger budgets stand a chance of winning. This isn’t the case either. The judges are eager to reward imaginative ideas, not how much has been spent. One previous winner was from a small centre with a tiny project budget of just €50.

How to enter this year

All details can be found on ECSP’s website and submissions must be made online. Entries are welcome from any European country for the ten categories we have created. We have a dedicated awards page with all the information you’ll need and an explanation of what we are looking for.

While the Solal’s usually recognise projects undertaken in the last 12 months, eligibility this year will be different with an entry period covering activities between 1 May 2019 and 1 June 2022. We also recognise this year continues to be a difficult period, therefore individual entries will only cost €399 and the awards will be announced online rather than at a gala event. The deadline to apply is the 5 September 2022.

Thanks to the team at ECSP for its support and enthusiasm in helping to bring back such an integral part of the retail property’s annual calendar at such a critical time for the industry. Thanks also to our sponsors and the European Shopping Places Trust for their financial support.

The Solals are back! It’s time to get rewarded.

About Alan Thornton:

Alan Thornton is Chair of the Solal Awards and Managing Director of destination specialists AL Marketing. He has a track history in placemaking and destination marketing spanning over 25 years. As chair of the Solal European Marketing Awards, he brings together over 20 leading marketing practitioners from across the globe to act as the expert jury for one of the best regarded destination marketing awards programmes there is. AL Marketing is an industry leading team specialising in enhancing results and achieving excellence for European destinations, from strategic marketing to creative delivery. www.almarketing.com