BBC brand strategy / positioning case study

BBC Brand Strategy Analysis

Media & entertainmentTV channels, radio stations, publishers, streaming services

Owner of the brand:
Government of the United Kingdom

Key competitors:
ITV, Channel 4, Sky, CNN, Netflix

Brand essence

To act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.

Brand values

Trust, highest quality, independence, intelligence.

Brand character

British, sophisticated, trustworthy, pioneering, creative, inclusive.

Dominating archetype

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) is one of the most trusted British brands and is almost universally associated with the highest level of broadcasting standards, exceptional creativity and in-depth expertise in creating both meaningful and entertaining TV content (news, factual, comedy, drama, music etc.). The BBC’s mission is “to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain”[1] (previously:“to enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain”), and it is generally believed that the company has been successful in delivering it through its multiple ventures (TV channels, radio stations, digital services, shows etc.)


For a brand with such a global presence, the BBC’s business model is rather untypical: mandatory annual license fees paid by British residents make up ca. 75% of the company’s funding[2]. The other 25% of revenue comes primarily from BBC Studios Distribution (launched in 2018 after the merger of BBC Worldwide and BBC Studios), the commercial arm of BBC, which runs more than 30 BBC-branded wholly owned and operated channels (e.g., BBC Earth and CBeebies), a number of channels created with other broadcasting partners (e.g., BBC America with AMC Networks), and digital products (e.g., BritBox, a joint venture with ITV), as well as the sale of BBC’s content to other broadcasters.


The BBC explains that the fact that it doesn’t carry any advertising or sponsorship on its public services and that it is primarily financed by people (and not the government), enables it to be “independent, impartial and honest”[3] and to take creative risks – commissioning the work of lesser-known directors, producers or screenwriters and showcasing more ambitious programmes, which would not otherwise be broadcast on other channels (primarily due to their low rating potential).


The BBC in the UK is required to deliver five public purposes (previously six): provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them, support learning for people of all ages, show the most creative, highest quality and distinctive output and services, reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the United Kingdom’s nations and regions and reflect the United Kingdom, its culture and values to the world.[4] Before 2017, the list also included the sixth public purpose, the delivery of which is no longer required from the BBC. It was defined as “(…) delivering to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services”[5].


The BBC represents a “branded house” brand architecture, which is designed to strengthen the masterbrand. Most of the BBC portfolio consists of sub-brands, which are built on the equity of the BBC umbrella brand. For example, BBC One is its most mainstream offering, which, even though it is more “intellectual” than its competing brands, is supposed to attract the widest audience; BBC Two is more sophisticated and presents more “highbrow” programmes[6], BBC Three is targeted at a younger audience and BBC Four is its offering for people interested in music, the arts, culture, factual content and international movies. On top of its channel brands, the BBC also has radio and digital brands (e.g., BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, BBC iPlayer). The only big BBC brand which is slightly further away from the main brand is CBeebies, which is a preschool channel. BBC content brands (franchises) such as “Top Gear”, “Doctor Who” or “Strictly Come Dancing” are managed as separate brands.


The BBC, because of its sophisticated character, its focus on in-depth and impartial news delivery and its mission to inform and educate, primarily represents the Sage brand archetype.

Most important campaigns

1. “BBC iPlayer I Wasted On Some I Name Blame” (2019)

2. “Christmas” (2018)

3. “EastEnders: Brace Yourself – Trailer” (2017)

4. “Planet Earth II Continues: Official Trailer” (2016)

5. “Bring Me Sunshine” (2011)

6. “Funny Talking Animals – Walk On The Wild Side – Episode Three Preview” (2009)


Official brand statement:

Our mission is ‘to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain’.

BBC Values
We have established a set of values for everyone working at the BBC. They represent the expectations we have for ourselves and each other, they guide our day-to-day decisions and the way we behave.Our values are:
Trust is the foundation of the BBC. We’re independent, impartial and honest
We put audiences at the heart of everything we do
We respect each other and celebrate our diversity
We take pride in delivering quality and value for money
Creativity is the lifeblood of our organisation
We’re one BBC. Great things happen when we work together[7]

Interesting facts:

The BBC did not begin to archive its programmes on tape until 1978. Most of the content produced between the 1930s and the 1980s has been lost.[8]

The BBC is believed to be the first TV channel to have tricked its viewers on April Fool’s Day. In 1957, it broadcast a programme about spaghetti crops in Switzerland. It showed women picking strands of spaghetti from a tree and drying them in the sun.[9]


1. The Drum on the BBC’s election campaign
I. Watson, “BBC Creative Brings 2019 General Election To Life In BBC Coverage Launch”, The Drum, Nov 2019,

2. The Economist on the British government’s proposal for reforming the BBC
“The BBC Dodges An Existential Crisis”, The Economist, May 2016,

3. The BBC on the differences between BBC One and ITV
J. Heath, “Is BBC One Really The Same As ITV?”, BBC Blog, Dec 2015,

4. The BBC brand architecture explained
J. Lingham, “Brand Architecture At The BBC”, LinkedIn Slide Share, Apr 2014,


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