Celebrating great writing by women and taking it to a wider audience than ever before are the core aims of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, which unveils its branding today (28th February) alongside a host of initiatives.
The three-year sponsorship deal with Baileys follows the prize’s earlier 17-year partnership with Orange, and a year (2013) in which it was privately funded while a fresh backer was found.
Prize co-founder Kate Mosse told The Bookseller that the new partnership would work because the “attitude and ambitions” of Baileys were “very, very compatible” with those of the prize team. She said: “Almost all the strongest partnerships in sponsorship bring in a partner from outside the sector, and each brings something different to the partnership.” While there were conversations about having an alcohol brand sponsoring a literary prize, Mosse said in the end “we felt we were following a very secure form of arts sponsorship”, with the sponsorship of the arts by alcohol brands “a well-trodden path.”
The prize’s rebrand to mark its new sponsor features a dark brown and caramel-toned logo which is both a traditional pen nib and a bottle of Baileys, continuing with stickers and bookmarks also in the Baileys colour palette. Meanwhile posters designed for libraries feature the 2014 prize judges—Mary Beard, Denise Mina, Caitlin Moran, Helen Fraser and Sophie Raworth—front and centre, cementing the prize’s aim, and the ambition of Baileys, of celebrating women. That is key to the programme of activity surrounding this year’s prize, described by Mosse as “ambitious, far-reaching and hugely exciting”. While the focus is on the UK in 2014, international reach is on the cards for the future.
To ensure the message is heard loud and clear, the prize has teamed up with Tesco for 2014. Bottles of Baileys in 600 stores will carry details of a promotion, offering prizes including tickets to the 2014 awards ceremony. Mosse said that the relationship between retail and publishers was “very strong now”, and it made sense to have a retail partner.
“Doing a promotion with a big supermarket—and not taking it outside of bookshops, which offer us great support—would mean hopefully there will be people who see the books who have not necessarily engaged with the prize before,” she said. “We just want to make sure the books get out to as wide an audience as possible.”
Increasing audience is also the aim of #ThisBook, a nationwide search “using multiple digital, social and real world touchpoints” to ask book lovers to nominate a book written by a woman which has had the greatest impact on their lives. It will use influential women, including Joanna Trollope and Martha Lane Fox, featured in specially commissioned portraits and videos. Mosse said: “The prize was founded for readers to celebrate original writing from women and put that in the hands of women and men . . . All of the women involved with the prize are readers. This seemed a good way of making that link clear.”
Another partnership is with the Elle Book Club, being launched in the magazine’s May issue, which will run for 12 months. It will include six books previously shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and six other books which are deemed true to the prize’s judging criteria, chosen by Elle editor Lorraine Candy and other members of the prize, including Mosse. She said: “The work of promoting books by women goes on all year. It’s something we have not been able to achieve before. This is a big step forward.” The book club, the Tesco promotion, #ThisBook and the appointment of a new social media editor, Lucy Pearson, to work on the prize have all have been put in place to help the prize connect with readers, and to help readers connect with books, which is what the prize set out to do when it launched in 1996.
“There are books of incredible quality and originality,” Mosse concluded, “but the context in which we read is about connecting with each other as well as the serious stuff that lies within the pages.”