Brit Awards Sponsor Backtracks Following “Tweets For Access” Twitterstorm

Sponsorship of the Brit Awards? A lot of money. A Twitter hashtag marketing campaign gone horribly wrong? Priceless.

1. Mastercard is sponsoring tonight’s Brit Awards, the 16th year it has sponsored the event. But it’s had to reverse its PR firm’s policy of asking its invited guests and some journalists to post pre-arranged tweets.

Samir Hussein / Getty Images

The PR firm, House PR, is getting a five-figure sum for handling what is now the longest running music sponsorship in Europe.

But it found itself at the centre of a an unwanted twitterstorm today after journalists expressed disdain at being asked to tweet specific things before, during and after the event.

The agency appeared to defend the strategy after it became public, but this afternoon Mastercard said in a statement that attendance was not conditional on positive coverage and to imply so was “highly inappropriate”.

2. This started when The Daily Telegraph’s diary editor Tim Walker complained yesterday that he’d been asked to tweet specific things in return for his ticket.

4. The letter he’d been sent then ended up on Press Gazette. It read:

…In addition – in return for this ticket we would like to ask that you agree to the following…

— Social media support from both publication and personal Twitter feed

— Pre event – e.g. Really excited to be heading down to @BRITAwards tonight with @MasterCardUK #PricelessSurprises

— Event night – live tweeting from the event including @MasterCardUK handle and #PricelessSurprises and to retweet @MasterCardUK tweets throughout the night where appropriate

— Post event – tweet directing followers to @MasterCardUK BRITs YouTube videos

— Pre-event coverage of MasterCard’s Priceless Surprise video edits with either Laura Mvula, Kylie Minogue and/or Pharrell Williams – to include full credit for MasterCardUK and #PriclessSurprises

— All features to be pushed on publications social feeds – to include @MasterCardUK and #PricelessSurprises

— MasterCard inclusion in post event write-up (print and online) including #PriclessSurprises hashtag and URL

— Post event write up presence on publication homepage (where possible)

— Inclusion of MasterCard branded event night images in post event piece

— Post event - coverage support for MasterCard music activity in 2014 (Beyonce & JT)

5. House PR isn’t the main company handling the PR for the Brits, that’s Dawbell PR, who are inviting loads of journalists and aren’t requesting any special tweets for access.

House PR just represents Mastercard and had invited its own guests, VIPs and journalists as part of its sponsorship.

But any hint of journalists being told what to do doesn’t go down very well in the twittersphere - so you can probably guess what happened next once people realised they could sabotage the #pricelesssurprises hashtag.

Ironically, trying to create positive press coverage through social media can create bad press coverage as everyone rushes to report on how annoyed everyone is at being told what to do.

This took me at least four minutes. #PricelessSurprises

— Bobble Bardsley (@bobblebardsley)

RT @FelicityMorse: Good press coverage is hard to bribe. For everything else there's Mastercard. #PricelessSurprises

— jonronson (@jonronson)

Just had a #PricelessSurprise down the clinic .. paid for treatment using @MasterCardUK

— James (@jay27sx)

Why do I get the feeling that @MasterCardUK is in for a #pricelesssurprise ? #PRFail #EggOnFace

— Roberta Wedge (@RobertaWedge)

Music industry appoints card sponsor for #Brits2014 #PricelessSurprises

— The Poke (@ThePoke)

#PricelessSurprises sounds like something sarcastic you'd say when your cat leaves a freshly-killed mouse on your pillow

— Chris Applegate (@qwghlm)

RT @guardianmusic: James Corden raises the microphone, opens his mouth to speak – but no words come. Only ants. Thousands of ants. #Pricele…

— Ian 'Cat' Vincent (@catvincent)

@jonsnowC4 #Brits2014 #PricelessSurprises

— Saf (@saf247)

Hey @MasterCardUK. If you send us to the Brits & ply us with booze, we'll tweet anything you want. We're shameless. #PricelessSurprises

— Paddy Power (@paddypower)

15. But then again, this will probably happen.

#PricelessSurprises Twitter storm ends at 5pm, when Addison Lee drop off all self-pontificating journos and PRs at the O2 bar.

— Jim Dowling (@jimdowling)

16. Both the PR firm and Mastercard are adamant, despite the email, that there is no tweets-for-access arrangement.

House PR says in a statement: “The role of the PR agency is to pursue all coverage opportunities on behalf of its clients. This includes providing accurate brand references from the outset, for use across all platforms. It is a two-way conversation between the journalist and the PR in order to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. Editorial control always remains with the journalist.”

Mastercard then underlined this point with a separate statement, hinting that they’ve had a little chat with the agency.

It said: “We have become aware of this situation and have been clear with our agency and attending media. Attendance at the Brits is not, nor has it ever been, a condition of coverage or endorsement. To imply such is highly inappropriate.”

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Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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