Climb Britain: a personal message from BMC CEO Dave Turnbull

Posted by Alex Messenger on 26/07/2016

We've had so many questions following our rebranding announcement yesterday. Here's a personal message from BMC CEO Dave Turnbull:

Thanks everyone for a very impressive level of response, many thanks to everyone who has commented. Here are some personal perspectives and detail about the process to date:

Midway through last year, I was at a seminar in London when one of the speakers mentioned funding might be available to help sports organisations develop their commercial and sponsorship potential. The BMC has always struggled to attract sponsorship income on any kind of scale (we end up funding the bulk of our work ourselves), so I followed this up and eventually we were given the services of a reputable consultancy firm to help us work up ideas.

This work looked at things like our membership structure and benefits package, travel insurance and sponsorship options in great detail and has been extremely useful. At the start of the process we secured some addition money (around £25k) for a branding agency to take a detailed look at how people perceive the BMC and how we might be able to improve our image to connect with new people and stay relevant in the modern age.

At the outset my expectation was that we’d probably end up with a recommendation to adopt a new BMC logo and some detailed brand guidelines about how to position ourselves. There was no specific brief to come up with new name for the BMC - it just evolved that way because the consultants came up with idea we felt had traction. For years we’ve pondered about the suitability of ‘Mountaineering Council’ in our name, but we’ve never been able to come up with an acceptable alternative. BMC as an acronym is OK if you know the BMC, but for new people it’s not obvious who we are or what we do.

‘British Climbing’ has been bandied about over the years, but the word ‘Climbing’ is different to ‘Climb’ and would never be acceptable to our hill walking members. ‘Climb’ on the other hand does work in the context of ‘climb hills, climb mountains, climb rocks etc’. Other random options over the years have included British Mountaineering, British Mountain Sports or British Mountaineering and Climbing. None of which are hugely better than British Mountaineering Council / BMC.

So, Climb Britain was thought up as a concept in March this year and we took it from there: initially sounding people out internally to see if they liked it and felt it worth taking forward. This involved discussion amongst the BMC’s directors (all unpaid elected volunteers) and past Presidents (including the likes of Dave Musgrove, Rab Carrington and Chris Bonington) and the MCofS (who were supportive). There were some reservations, of course, but the overwhelming reaction was that the time (and the name) was right, so on 18 May the directors unanimously agreed to take the new name forward to the BMC National Council meeting, which took place at Plas y Brenin on 18 June.

An explanation for those who aren’t aware: National Council comprises two elected representatives from each of the BMC’s ten ‘Areas’ (London, Peak, Lakes, Cymru / Wales North, Cymru / Wales South etc.), the directors, and all of our Specialist Committee chairs (Clubs Committee, Access Management Group, Huts Advisory Group, Training & Youth Committee, Technical Committee etc.) as observers. National Council is the BMC’s policy-making body and the role of the Area reps is to feed in the views of their Area Meetings and take issues from National Council back to Areas for consideration when they see fit. National Council is made up of committed volunteers who give up their time (at least four weekends per years) to participate in quarterly meetings and the AGM. It comprises grassroots enthusiasts and is typically very thoughtful and cautious in approach.

So, on 18 June I presented the Climb Britain concept to a well-attended gathering, fully expecting it to raise eyebrows and to be knocked back to the September meeting following a period of wider discussion. National Council was aware the branding project had been going on and as it turned out the response was incredibly enthusiastic and positive. The Area representatives (your representatives) liked the concept and the name Climb Britain. They felt the time was right, that the BMC had to move with the times and they voted 19 for, 1 abstention, 0 against in favour of adopting the new identity.

For me personally, Climb Britain wasn’t love at first sight, it’s been a ‘grower’ though. My initial impression (back in March) was it sounded a bit awkward and unusual, more like a campaign than a national body, a bit radical for the BMC. But I think the logo works well: it’s distinctive, builds on previous BMC logos and, when seen in conjunction with the ‘climb hills, climb mountains, etc’ strapline, presents a strong and clear message. Give it time, I say.

In response to some of the other points on this thread and elsewhere:

1. Why rebrand? To continue to represent the best interests of all climbers and walkers now – and into the future – the BMC had to modernise and change. Without evolving, our membership age profile would have increased and at some stage – not now, but perhaps not far off – we would have ceased to become relevant in the new landscape.

2. What did the consultancy work involve? Discussion with a sample of BMC volunteers, Area reps, climbing wall managers, young and older climbers, hill walkers and others. Meetings with members of the BMC Women’s Development Group, our Hill Walking Development Group and staff, and visits to climbing walls.

3. What exactly is ‘Climb Britain’? It’s a new public identity, a new way of presenting what we do and what we stand for. Our formal name (Companies House, Memorandum & Articles of Association) will remain the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), and ‘BMC’ will still be used in aspects of our media and membership literature. The BMC’s core work for climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers will continue as usual under the Climb Britain banner; it will be business as usual.

4. Decision making / consultation. I’ve explained above how we arrived at Climb Britain. The BMC has an effective democratic structure and we used this in reaching the decision. Complex or commercially sensitive issues can be extremely difficult or impossible to agree via widespread membership consultation and there are times when we rely on our (your) elected Area reps to make judgement calls on big issues. That’s why they’re there, that why they give up their time to be involved.

5. Sport England and the Olympics. The consultancy work was paid for by Sport England so members’ money was not used on the rebrand. There were no strings attached (if we didn’t like what the consultants came up with then we weren’t obliged to accept it) and without this kind of help we wouldn’t normally be able to afford this level of professional advice. Finally, regarding the Sports Councils, Sport England is not involved with the Olympics, UK Sport is.

The BMC gets financial support from Sport England, not UK Sport. Sport England funds projects like ours to encourage organisations to increase their commercial (and external sponsorship) income and thus reduce their dependency on Government funding. This whole process started well before the 2020 Olympics became such a realistic prospect; it’s a complete coincidence that the two things have come about at the same time.

Yours

Dave


Read more about Climb Britain

BMC to change its name to Climb Britain
After more than 70 years as the British Mountaineering Council, we’ve decided to move with the times and unite all our members under one 'Climb' banner.

Climb Britain: the facts
We take a look at the facts behind the change to Climb Britain.

What does Climb Britain mean for walkers?
Changing to Climb Britain won't affect our work for walkers – find out more.

Climb Britain: a personal message from BMC CEO Dave Turnbull
Dave Turnbull gives a behind-the-scenes look at the process.

Climb Britain: Update from the BMC
It's been a rocky ride this last few days, and it's probably fair to say we didn’t quite anticipate the level of interest there would be in our Climb Britain announcement.


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26/07/2016
But you have to Admit Dave, that Climb Britain is a bit similar to UKClimbing
And what happens if Scotland and Northern Ireland leave the Union as they are threatening to do? Britain will no longer exist.
Personally I always favoured 'the British Union of Mountaineers' aka Mac the Belly!
Anonymous User
26/07/2016
I've looked at the website of the company used for the design work, B-focus. Had a chuckle at the bottom of the home page at the list of clients... Not particularly inventive with their naming strategy are they?
26/07/2016
Climb Britain sounds childlike and Unprestigious a bit like an advert aimed at Children on Saturday morning television. BMC has gravitas, is very well known and respected.
I never feel daft using the full name or acronym. climb britain would make me whisper the name.
Brings to mind slogans like "I'm Britain, climb me" or "Climb Britain, we're getting there“.
What a horrible and cheap new name, would never buy a product with it on and will hide any new membership card with it on.... That is if I continue membership, I hate it that much.
27/07/2016
Feel a bit put out that this wasn't shared more overtly with members from the outset - let alone more widespread consultation with members. Talk about bolt from the Blue! I find the whole thing a bit bizarre.
27/07/2016
Dave. Firstly, looking at the various posts forums etc it looks that most people are disappointed/ annoyed in the fact that we, the ones you are working for weren't asked about this. Secondly, 25k either our money or someone else's could have been spent better than giving it to someone to think of a new name/ branding. If you had involved 'the people ' and had some sort of competition type affair then; A we would be involved; B would involve little cost. Finally, the BMC has been around for a great many years. I've grown up with it from my first involvement with the outdoors as a great many other have. It's a known name/ brand which has grown over the 70 odd years of its time. The country has lost enough identity over the years as it is. This is not the time, this is not what the majority want.
27/07/2016
I would like to know if, given the overwhelmingly negative responses here, on UKC and on Facebook, if there is a mechanism for you to review this decision. You have cited commercial sensitivities as a reason not to engage with the membership prior to launch. I'm asking now that the cat is out of the bag, if there is a reason this cannot be paused in order for you to make more effort to discuss this with us. I was alarmed that your statement about social media responses in your "the facts" blog post appeared to be written before you had launched this exercise on social media! I appreciate that you may have misjudged the public mood, but this doesn't mean you have to stubbornly continue down this path.
Anonymous User
27/07/2016
I am about to sign up to the BMC as a new member. If I may add my two cents: "Climb Britain" really does sound like a slogan in a PR campaign. I quite like the terms "union", "council" or "association". Sports will always change and evolve, the name of the organisation, IMHO, doesn't need to reflect those changes all the time. We just have to understand and associate the term "mountaineering" in a broader sense and context. After all, it can also be argued that hill walking is a form of mountaineering. And I fail to understand why and how "climb" better applies to hill walking!??! The "British Canoe Union" has been around since 1936. Although "canoe" is specifically mentioned in the name of the union, the organisation itself covers all sorts of boat related activities, courses and certificates. This is dealt with in an elegant paragraph:

"Paddlesports for all
Since 1936 there have been many wonderful, significant changes and advances in our sport. Canoeing now covers a wide range of interests and passions as a sport and a leisure activity. We want to support and provide opportunities for everyone to enjoy and realised their potential within all aspects of canoeing regardless of their age, background or ability."

I think paddlesports are evolving at a much higher speed than mountain related sports. But "BCU" is known and respected and not changed. I wish the BMC would do something similar.
Anonymous User
27/07/2016
Did you every think to consult the members? Probably not as you got a nice lump sum to play with!! We pay our subscriptions a lot of us purchasing 'add ons' and you've betrayed every member, disgraceful.
Anonymous User
27/07/2016
Thanks Dave
Anonymous User
28/07/2016
Dave,

Don't you find it completely inappropriate to persist with the 'Britain'/'British' element of your name, when you are only the national representative for England and Wales, and you have even then developed individual branding for Wales?

You are either stating that, A, England doesn't matter, or B, England is Britain, Wales is a poor cousin, and Scotland and NI don't exist.

Considering MCofS were consulted, whilst simultaneously rebranding, it is amazing that absolutely no national approach was taken to the branding of each organisation- which would have undeniably strengthened each brand, individually and collectively?

At a time of such heightened political awareness across the UK, and given the recent referendums, it would appear that a fantastic opportunity to create a unifying brand has been missed.
Anonymous User
28/07/2016
How many members of the BMC live outside England and Wales - who were their area reps to consult over this!
When you look at some of the names of the people in social media complaining about this there are some very well respected stalwarts of the UK Mountaineering community there.

Is it now not time to admit you got it wrong!
Anonymous User
28/07/2016
The motivation for changing the name as stated by Dave has been to attract sponsorship and commercial interest...
Please could you provide an indication of the business plan for this ...and expected nature scale of such. The name change it self would be a tiny and subservant tactical part of that strategy and would be there to derive a specific purpose or fiscal result.
I like many others with many years of membership have lost faith in the organisation and management on various counts. The level of engagement with members is appalling both at individual and club level...by way of example I called up to cancel my membership (which had existed for many years)...I would have expected that a customer focused organisation that has just demonstrated a huge disconnect with its membership (as observed universally about 90% of folks are at odds with recent change process) would have
a) asked reasons for leaving
b) tried to to retain membership.
Not a single question or expression of concern...or attempt to retain membership. Still I am sure the strategy for sponsorship will produce vastly more money than my solitary per capita contribution along with everybody else who has had their fill. I am now supporting and expecting the major clubs to break away from the BMC and regain some representation and sensible insurance solutions.
A sad sate of affairs I find and one that is ultimately accountable.
28/07/2016
Refreshing to read something that doesn't seem like it has been crafted by consultants.
Other BMC articles refer to things like '‘Since we announced the start of our journey to Climb Britain, we’ve had some great responses on UKclimbing, Twitter and Facebook.' and '‘The switch to Climb Britain will create exciting opportunities to extend our reach and influence in future years’ which I can't imagine anyone working in the BMC offices could type with a straight face. They tend not to do management-bollcks as a rule.

Dave; it is a travesty that Area Reps had this sprung on them with no opportunity to discuss with membership. Scared of reactionism?
29/07/2016
I don't question the need to modernise and change, but how does the re-branding address this? Consultant seem to like it is a quick and easy (but never cheap) solution, but changing the letterhead means nothing without actual change. What is the BMC proposing to actually do to modernise and change?

Attracting young people is a problem faced by most organisations in most fields. We must accept that there has been a significant cultural shift, and young people now socialise and organise in a different way, through social media. They don't feel a need to get involved with formal clubs and organisations. Why do you think re-branding will change this?

How exactly will the rebranding assist in getting funding? Is this worth the loss of goodwill and heritage associated with the existing brand?

Arguing that "climb" is not the same as "climbing" is, with respect, a feeble argument. This is not about dictionary definitions, it is about brand image. Within the outdoor community "climb" and "climbing" are primarily associated with rock climbing, other meanings are secondary. Is it worth alienating the very large number of other mountain users who do not consider themselves to be climbers? The fact that you feel the need to explain at length why "climb" does not exclude hillwalkers speaks for itself. If you have to explain your brand it is a failure.

The consultation seems to have been carried out in secret, since nobody seems to have been aware this was going on. Why was the outdoor community not canvassed more widely for its views?

I understand the decision-making process, but this appears to have been sprung on the Area Reps too and you have asked them to make "judgement calls" without them having had the opportunity to consult their local memberships. My understanding was that the Area Reps are there to act as a conduit between the membership and the NC, not to act on their own initiative.

However, whilst there does seem to have been a failure of governance and communication here, that is not the main concern. The real issue is that it is very clear from the responses that most people are very concerned that the new name does not properly reflect what the organisation is there to do, and jettisons decades of its heritage. "Climb Britain" as an identity within the BMC to support what we all understand by "climbing" would be fine, but it is wrong for the organisation as a whole.

This needs a complete re-think.
Anonymous User
29/07/2016
A name that needs explaining is no name at all. And even after reading the explanation I still think it's a change for the worse. Why not British Mountainsports Council? That name encompasses most disciplines. even bouldering and indoor wall climbing which, after all, are training methods for mountaineering.
Anonymous User
30/07/2016
It's tough renaming/ rebranding and as a hill walker and sometime mountaineerI feel Climb Britain, though very strong and representing the new generation of competition climbers in a dynamic and exciting new logo, does not represent me. But....as Dave says, the strap line saves the day!

We want more young people to discover and try the sport and this rebranding gives this drive a strong boost. They may start with trying climbing as I did 40 odd years ago, and then choose to be up and downhill walkers.

Good luck with the branding.
Anonymous User
01/08/2016
I rather like the change. I'm a newbie to the world of climbing but as a walker and rambler I found the BMC name to be rather exclusive, a world made up of muscular folk, and a highly technical and dangerous pursuit. Changing the name, for me at least, recognises the importance of reaching out to those of us who are in search of belonging to a movement that is more than just a stroll in the hills, but have yet to make it to a rockface. Paid up members of the BMC may have their views about the process and they are entitled to feel disgruntled if they weren't properly consulted, but the end result - an all encompassing, inclusive and modern brand - is in my opinion a move in the right direction. Good luck to all concerned.
Anonymous User
06/08/2016
"...The Area representatives (your representatives) liked the concept and the name Climb Britain. They felt the time was right, that the BMC had to move with the times and they voted 19 for, 1 abstention, 0 against in favour of adopting the new identity."

The key word here is "representative". It is astonishing that such a vote was taken without first eliciting the views of those whom our Area representatives are elected to represent. Well done to the one who had the courage and integrity to abstain.
Anonymous User
06/08/2016
This post is not anonymous, it is by Anthony Sperryn.

I despair. For you to say, presumably with a straight face, that "Climbing" is different to "Climb" is laughable. But that seems to be the essence of your argument for change. Please think again.
Anonymous User
07/08/2016
Thanks for your reflections. As a long standing member here's mine ; ask for your £25k back as the rebrand results are poor on many levels;

1) the brand consultants failed to consult with the 'customers' ie the members and the prospective members of the association.

2) the BMC is about all mountain activities and other aspects of climbing ( indoor etc) - Climb Britain doesn't speak to this broad church.

3) the BMC has always been about British climbers ( however defined) undertaking their activities across the globe ( you only have to look at the comprehensive insurance dept to see this..) - Climb Britain loses this identity and heritage

4) heritage itself - where is the link to 70 years.....be careful what you wish for in modernizing

5) the rebrand fails to reach out to a wider audience ( which was surely the point of it) - where and how do ski mountaineers, skiers in general, ramblers, outdoor enthusiasts, wildlife/birders (supporters for the access work the BMC does rather than climbing itself) - feel included by a Climb branding.

6) the positive connotations of Climb Britain could actually narrow not broaden the membership - are we going to be seen as an association representing sport climbing (ready for Olympic funding perhaps ? )

Not sure if this name change goes to the membership via the AGM etc, but if not it needs a rapid rethink( aka New Coke) and if we must rebrand - think again.
Anonymous User
03/09/2016
I'm my view and the view of every climber, mountaineer, boulderer and hill walker I know there is nothing wrong with with the BMC name, it's recognised worldwide.
Stupid waste of members money and makes it sound like it peeling in a kids play group.
I won't be renewing my membership.

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