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Where next for the red poppy?

The amazing turnabout in fortunes which marketing has brought to the Royal British Legion’s red poppy campaign is just the beginning for the nation’s most revered bloom, thinks Welsh entrepreneur Oliver Cyboli.

This year’s campaign is expected to raise the most money ever, more than £40m. The furore caused by Fifa’s objection to the England and Wales football teams wearing the emblem on their shirts during games, neither of which was against a former Axis power, set soccer fan Mr Cyboli thinking.

“We’ve seen what sponsorship has done for soccer, the money that has flowed into the game and the amazing talent it has bought – I mean brought. Well, this year we’ve seen designer red poppies, diamond encrusted poppies, giant poppies…. Britain is making remembrance cool, and with cool comes cash, all in a good cause, obviously. So, why not a sponsorship deal for the red poppy appeal? Millions of people are wearing them so that space is valuable. Nothing tacky, obviously, not: ‘If Carlsberg did remembrance’; not ‘I’m loving it!’ ”

Mr Cyboli believes that, with the right sponsor, the red poppy campaign could vastly increase the revenue it generates for the Legion’s charity work. “Imagine a poppy with EDO embossed on the black bit in the middle; or BAE Systems could issue a big thank-you to servicemen and women with a slogan like ‘Never Enough’ printed on the poppy itself. Continuing to open up the Red Poppy to market forces rather than the armed forces, must be the way forward.

“If organisations like the Peace Pledge Union feel strongly enough, well they can stump up the cash and have their ‘Never Again’ words on the poppy, of course they can, that’s the beauty of capitalism, that’s what we’re fighting for. Nothing wrong with a bit of humour either: ‘Right who’s next?’ ‘Have you got a WKD side?’

“I have a host of ideas, some of which I can’t talk about because I’m negotiating with major corporate players, but what about brand diversification: The Big Red One, The Afghan, The Scented One. Think trainers: People don’t buy a single pair as footwear, they have collections! Think a red, white and blue special edition poppy!”


Bejewelled poppies, poppy-branded umbrellas, poppy-related teabag tidies, and poppy-emblazoned spoon holders are still available from the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Shop. The tinyurl below points to a BBC report on white poppy and Islamic tributes at Newport remembrance event: www.tinyurl.com/peacenews432