01 March 1998

ROBERT AYLING, chair of The New Millennium Experience Company and British Airways' chief executive, has announced that NMEC is ahead of its sponsorship targets with £58.8 million in the bag and a further £16 million at an 'advanced stage of negotiation'. Four 'Millennium Founding Partners' have committed a minimum of £12 million each - BT, BSkyB, Manpower and Tesco, with British Airways and BAA promising lesser amounts. Says Ayling: 'This puts us well on the road to achieving the £150 million which some said was impossible.' But raising the remainder is likely to be an uphill struggle, much depending on potential sponsors' reaction to the unveiling of plans for the dome. The Financial Times says sponsors are driving a hard bargain, some having screwed concessions from NMEC not originally in the game plan. Camelot is to be the official distributor for dome tickets. The pivot of BT's sponsorship will be the offer of Mill-e-Mail, a free e-mail address to everyone in the UK over the age of nine. The company will also have its own sector in the dome - 'Time to Talk!', with the emphasis on telecommunications. Tesco is to provide a latter-day Internet version of the Domesday Book, 'SchoolNet 2000', which will chronicle and preserve for the 21st century the everyday lives of today's children. This will form the centrepiece of the dome's 'Learning Curve' zone. US-owned multinational employment agency Manpower will sponsor the work zone, branded 'Licensed to Skill' [aptly setting the tone of the zone!] which, says Manpower president Mitchell Fromstein, will deliver 'a consistent and clear vision of the future of work'. BSkyB, as is its wont, is less pretentious. Chief executive Mark Booth said the satellite broadcaster, a major sponsor of the 'Serious Play' zone, will celebrate the role of sport and entertainment. although its sponsorship package does not confer any exclusive broadcasting rights. BAA will spend £7 million to use the dome to rebrand Stansted Airport as the 'Millennium Gateway', while the Corporation of London has promised up to £6 million provided this is matched by City businesses.