My Oulu: The Air Guitar World Championships remains Oulu’s most visible event abroad
In terms of international visibility for Oulu, the Air Guitar World Championships is in a category of its own; news of the competition has the potential to reach more than 336 million people. Every third news concerning Oulu in international media is about the Air Guitar World Championships final. As the event can no longer physically grow more than it has in Oulu, the event producers are now looking to find growth in digital platforms.
On Friday August 26, the 25th edition of the Air Guitar World Championship finals took place in Oulu. The international profile of the event is important for Oulu – also in a financial sense. Apart from the well-earned publicity, the air guitar players shower the city with a message of love, peace, and understanding, as demonstrated by the Oulu-themed postcards seen in the final broadcast.
“It’s not really possible for the AGWC to grow any more in the Rotuaari Square, there were about 3500 enthusiastic air guitar fans in the audience and things were getting pretty tight in there. It is our goal to boost the global visibility of this event so that as many people as possible will view the final around the world,” says Jukka Takalo, the original script writer for the AGWC.
“Our Air Guitar contest could be an underground version of the Eurovision Song Contest. That’s why we wanted to add some journalistic content to this year’s show, which worked well live. I could see the EBU, for example, picking up the finals broadcast in the future to be streamed by every public broadcaster in Europe,” says Takalo.
Postcards from Oulu
Mun Oulu and the air guitar players collaborated to create several Oulu-themed postcards in the Eurovision spirit.
“Air guitarists came to Oulu from all around the world. It was a revelation to see what their impression of Oulu was! Oulu is tolerant, Oulu is love, Oulu is a spiritual home – and answers were the same whether the guitarist was here for their first visit or their tenth time. How could we give this picture of Oulu to a tourist, a business about to relocate, or to a student?” wonders Anne Laurila, international communications specialist of the City of Oulu.
The videos in question accumulated more than 32 000 views over the weekend through City of Oulu and Mun Oulu social media channels alone. The AGWC’s own social media accounts had a viewership of one million during the competition week.
The visibility of the Air Guitar World Championship’s 2019 and 2020 editions was analysed using the tool kit offered by the media and social media monitoring company Meltwater. Based on the analysis, the 170 articles and more than 2500 social media mentions generated over the two years had the potential to reach nearly 480 million people. This kind of visibility carries a financial value of about 4.7 million euro.
The high visibility is explained by the global community around the air guitar players – it is equally popular in the United States, Australia, Japan and, naturally, Europe. New countries are constantly joining the air guitar community; this year, Kenya participated for the first time. Apart from the global media coverage, several films have been made from the Air Guitar World Championships, among them Catching Air (2021), French Kiss goes to Oulu (2018), and Air Guitar Nation (2006).
The visibility the AGWC grants Oulu, and its financial value, are also increasing; based on preliminary numbers for this year’s edition, the potential reach of air guitar coverage was up to 336 million people. It would therefore be prudent to make use of the Air Guitar World Championship’s appeal in making Oulu better known across the world – especially as the city heads to become European Capital of Culture in 2026.
“The international visibility the Air Guitar World Championships engenders will contribute to the way the Oulu 2026 is seen around the world. The idea is that the World Championship Final culminates in a global joint performance, which would be one of the biggest events in the Delta Life cultural project and all of summer 2026, radiating from Oulu all over the world across many media to promote the cause of world peace. At that point, the number of potential viewers will easily reach one billion, for more than ten million euros worth visibility,” says Takalo.
Mun Oulun tavoite on vahvistaa oululaisuutta ja sen näkyvyyttä lisäten Oulun kaupungin pito- ja vetovoimaa kirjoittamalla paikallisista ja ajankohtaista aiheista, kuten kaupungin päätöksistä, tapahtumista, kolmannesta sektorista, yksittäisistä kaupunkilaisista sekä mielenkiintoisista ilmiöistä. Mun Oulu on osa Oulun kaupungin viestintäorganisaatiota.