Why it’s not just the football Spain is celebrating but also it’s love affair with Britain.

Sunday saw Spain’s historically win over Italy (4:0) to retain their European title. Combined with successes in other sports, Spain really has earned itself a reputation for skill and quality playing. (OK the match against Portugal was a bit limp, but the final made up for that.)

And even if you aren’t a sports fan (like me), this winning streak is having a positive effect upon the brand of Spain.

Last night at the Embassy of Spain the Spanish and British united to celebrate the success of many Spanish brands in the UK (there are over 300 trading here). The Made in Spain, Making it in Britain event featured top speakers which included Spain’s top fashion designer (and regarded as one of the world’s best) Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, a fascinating and colourful character.

Given the current economic crisis in Europe, the event was a breath of fresh air and a new perspective for Spanish entrepreneurs and companies interested in expanding onto the lucrative UK market. However, as many speakers pointed out, there are enormous opportunities here but not without challenges. The supermarkets, with their controlling power, don’t make it easy to launch new brands here. But the good news is, Britains are hungry to try new things.

The other key advice was not only making sure you knew who your audience is and understanding them but producing stand out marketing. “If your marketing doesn’t stand out, you won’t stand a chance. Be creative, be different and be distinctive,” was the message.

The runaway success of Spanish brands here comes down to the Spanish passion for quality and excellence, from design to finish. With a long heritage in creativity, Picasso, Gaudí, Dali, Miro, the modern Spanish creatives are breaking new ground and many now regard Spain as a hotbed of new thinking and creativity. My own experience, we have had a lot of Spanish creatives working with us, is they are highly imaginative with excellent craft skills.

The event’s main aim was to strengthen the image of quality Spanish brands in Britain and inspire others to venture here, from fashion to food, technology to automotive, and beyond. Inspiring it certainly was.

Other speakers included Seat UK’s MD Peter Wyhinny, Estrella Galicia’s Juan Paz, Enrique Ruiz de Lera of the Spanish Tourist office and Jose Antonio Zamora, economic & commercial councellor at ICEX (Spanish Embassy Economic & Commercial office).


An interesting question at the event was about how much of a brand a country can be? This was something we investigate at the end of last year with the European Brands Survey. Conducted with 1200 shoppers across 10 cities, it investigated how countries fair as brands across a wide range of categories – the results are fascinating (see the EBS survey at http://www.qualityofspain.co.uk/survey ).

Take SEAT, owned by VAG. It combines German engineering & technology with Spanish passion for design and pleasure. A great combination, credibility with creativity. ‘German Engineering with Spanish Passion’ sounds good and plausible. But what about ‘Spanish Engineering with German Passion”? I think German passion makes me more unsure than Spanish engineering. Ironically, Spanish has a massive automotive industry, building cars for many top car brands. In terms of engineering and technology they are on par with Germany.

And if you are looking for stats, try these. World’s biggest producer of olive oil, the 3rd biggest producer of wine, a world leading in green technologies, the list goes on.

Spain has a great brand, and not just one that is all about passion. In many other areas, maybe less obvious to most of us, they are pioneers. Green technology is one are they are excelling at, especially in the field of solar power (unlike us, they actually have some sun).

With so many Spanish brands doing business in the UK, it is amazing that so many of us Brits remain unaware of just how much contact we have with them. Of course the really big success is Spanish Fashion with a range of highly successful retail brands – Mango, Desigual, Camper, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Loewe, and of course Zara, who have over 50 stores here now.

But many other brands are engaging us daily, Santander (who bought ‘shabby Abbey’), Telephonica (who bought O2), Ferrovial (BAA) and Iberdrola (Scottish Power), to name just a few.


Britain’s love affair with Spain now goes far beyond packaged holidays, even though over 13.5 million of us went there last year. Travellers are now discovering the real culture and heritage of Spain (which has the second largest number of World Heritage sites in Europe). The trend now is towards inner Spain, discovering old villages, castles, paradores and Spain’s beautiful landscape. But my advice to Spain is to try and re educate the average holiday maker about the real Spain, not the Cost del Sol version.


With an appetite for new dishes and tastes, Britain’s are discovering the vast range of quality foods and drinks that are coming in from Spain, there’s been a dramatic rise in the sales of Spanish wines recently. Products like cherries have also seen big sales too. And real Tapas bars and restaurants like Iberica, are opening everywhere.


The trouble is, for many Brit’s their frame of reference is a cheap holiday. So to build the brand of Spain, especially along the lines of ‘passion for quality & excellence’ (my line, not their’s) will require a reframe. The solution is for Spain to push the quality positioning


The opportunities for Spanish brands here are enormous but not without challenges. The British consumer is complex, demanding and in ad terms, very sophisticated. But with over €23bn of trade already happening, I think Spain will just keep selling more here. And as for football…we’ll have to wait another year to see if they can make it three in a row.






  • Chris Arnold

    Love Spain. Love Tapas. Love Spanish beer. I even drive a Seat and love it. Somehow, all things Spanish are associated with love.