Braga's time travel strategy

Place Brand of the Year Finalist, 2019 - entered by Bloom Consulting

For the last two millennia, Braga has been an important territory for many civilizations. Since the Roman Occupation, Braga has been intrinsically associated with Religion. Hundreds of chapels, churches, cathedrals and statuaries compose the historical landscape of the municipality of Braga, and this has been the basis for the well-established nickname “City of the Archbishops”. While this association has been powerful enough to attract a considerable volume of religious and historical tourists through the city gates, this “brand image” neglected to show (and even shadowed) some of Braga’s most outstanding accomplishments. 

As well as being one of the oldest cities in Portugal, Braga is one of the most entrepreneurial, and so the goal was to leverage the city’s innovative spirit to make the tourism experience as interesting and interactive as possible. In summary, the challenge faced by Braga before the kick-off of the city brand project was the need to change the perception of tourists. To offer an interactive, varied and unforgettable experience, where they’d have the chance not only to get to know the last 2,000 years of the city’s history but also to be a part of it as a start-up environment with an overall openness to new people, new ideas and new ways of looking at the world.

Creating a new strategy

The current tourism strategy of Braga started in late 2017 when the team started collating all available information on Braga’s tourism assets, studies, literature, promotion material, institutions and organizations that were – at any given capacity – involved in the Braga’s tourism ecosystem. With all this information in mind, more than 50 local  stakeholders were interviewed, as well as over 500 potential tourists. Simultaneously, individual experts visited every tourism asset & carried out an in-depth analysis of tourist proactive searching behaviour in order to provide a recently created team (composed of both public and private institutions) with all the necessary information to establish the central idea for Braga’s tourism brand and the essential projects to activate. 

The central idea had to focus on the city’s role in the history of Portugal - a country enriched by dozens of civilisations over the last 2,000 years. However, Braga also has a vibrant present and future, being the most entrepreneurial city in Portugal - European Capital of Youth in 2012 & Ibero-American Capital of Youth in 2016 - and brought to life by a dynamic and proud population capable of being a fundamental part of turning every visit to Braga into a Time Travel experience. 

The strategic focus was threefold: To know everything (study and map all relevant historical, natural and other relevant assets), to develop (clear concepts, aligned materials, indispensable projects, routes and storytelling) and to communicate (a clear and differentiated message based on Time Travelling.) During research, a number of essential target-audiences were identified: Generic (Families, Religious, City Break, Nature, Gastronomic); Historical (Cultural, Historical, Adventurer); Technological (Futuristic, Trendy, Business); and Relaxed (Youth, Sports).

Activating the brand

Two distinct programmes were created to activate the brand:

Braga Replay: Concerning all actions, activities and policies related to the material and immaterial historical assets of Braga, working towards putting every single action “on-brand” (active, interactive, relating to a “time travelling” experience).

Braga Play: Working towards innovating and transforming youth movements, companies, innovative spaces and new trends of the city into tourism assets, strengthening the bond between the city youth cultural movements and the visitors. 

In total, 15 projects were implemented, examples of which included the following;

Replay Mirror – using new technologies to allow travellers to see how squares, buildings and iconic monuments evolved throughout the ages

Time Passport – challenging tourists to explore the territory, not only in a geographical capacity, but also visiting specific time periods.

Forward Culture – creating a cultural network across the territory, matching different artists with locations, events and brainstorming possibilities to involve them in the ecosystem of the city.

Open Innovation – inviting the time travellers, locals and casual visitors what they would like to see in the city, what could be different, what could be better and value the territory.

Braga Future Week – No matter the area, from fashion to technology, from gastronomy to philosophy, this event aims at turning the streets of Braga into a window to the future

The Timeless App – an application that allows users to access all the information necessary to enjoy all the activities related to both the Play and Replay programmes, free and accessible to all. 

The team had positive feedback from all of the stakeholders contacted, interviewed, consulted and asked to participate in the research, strategy and implementation of this project. Across early 2019, the welcoming office of Visit Braga received 145, 557 tourists, an increase of more than 12% when compared to the previous year & Braga was confirmed as the Best European City For Sports (European Parliament, 2018).

Interested in entering the City Nation Place Awards? Find out more here.

Related reading:

The place branding bookshelf

Hall of fame: 15 of the best place marketing and place branding campaigns

Has the pandemic killed soft power?

The politics of space, culture, and placemaking in post-COVID place branding

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.