Richard Arquati: Celeb affair

Listen to this article

Each summer, the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) attracts its fair share of well-known personalities. Richard Arquati, head of press and public relations, The RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises, explains the pros and cons of working with celebs…

Interest in the Air Tattoo stems from a number of sources. Some, like John Barrowman, love the excitement and noise of the aircraft and are happy to offer their support. Others such as Sir David Jason want to demonstrate their thanks to the men and women of the Royal Air Force by helping promote the airshow and the RAF charity.

As an event staged in support of an RAF charity, we do not have a budget to “buy-in” celebrities or high profile personalities instead we rely on the generosity of those who enjoy what we do, not only in terms of staging a world famous airshow but also in promoting the incredible skills of the men and women of the RAF.

It’s also great for the visitors attending if they get to meet or simply see a well-known face. It might be by getting autograph opportunities by the likes of James May or Jenson Button or seeing Jeremy Clarkson drooling over some of the static warbirds from yesteryear.

The benefits are great – not only do our “well-known” supporters help endorse the RIAT brand, but having the “not traditionally related to aircraft” celebs in attendance helps us widen our appeal. And, if they happen to be broadcasters, the often provide valuable exposure for the event both pre and post show.

However, working with celebrities does have its pitfalls too. One has to ensure that the person in question is totally appropriate to be associated with us and, if asked to take part in publicity events, is reliable. I had my fingers burnt a few years ago when two celebrities kindly agreed to attend our press launch, but unbeknown to me, they didn’t get on. When one realised that the other would be attending too, he pulled out at the last minute. I certainly learned a lesson that day!

But the benefits of working with celebrities don’t just come from their attendance. It’s our 40th Anniversary this year and we’ve asked some of our celebrity friends to record a birthday message for us on camera. We bought the camera and we post it to them to record a message before posting it back. It proved the easiest way to do it, and was more convenient for those time-pressured personalities. It’s been a hoot and I’m sure our visitors will enjoy watching them on July 16-17.