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Man or myth? – It no longer really matters!

Man or Myth? Invariably, that is the most frequently asked question about Robin Hood and because there is no conclusive, undisputed historical evidence that categorically proves his actual existence or who he really was, Robin has become an extremely divisive figure and the elusive mystery as to his true origins only adds to the intrigue and fascination. Whether he lived or not, no longer really matters.

Over the centuries, fiction has triumphed over fact and the tales of England's famous outlaw have become a worldwide legend establishing Robin Hood as "the People's Hero" and elevating him to "international celebrity" status as an icon of popular culture with a fan base that stretches back over 500 years!

As a retired public relations and marketing professional, my own personal interest in Robin Hood has never been about the historic "man or myth" issue but has been more practically focussed on how Nottingham's legendary figurehead evolved into a powerful global "brand" and how that phenomenal promotional potential might be more effectively harnessed for the benefit of his home city and county.

The recent discovery of Richard III 's remains under a Leicester car park inevitably sparked off some rival comments about the "historic credibility" of the find compared with Robin Hood's "fantasy existence" but fact or fiction should make no difference when it comes down to effective marketing.

The Walt Disney Organisation attributes it's highly successful marketing mantra to being based on the fact that they treat their fantasy creations as "real commercial brands or personalities" and actively exploit every opportunity to vigorously promote their marketing and publicity potential. A glance through any of the promotional and media packs that accompanied some of their animated classic movies shows just how seriously they adopted this practice and their success proves how effective this strategy was.

Other examples of how you can successfully market a "fantasy" are the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street, London; the Harry Potter studio experience in Hertfordshire; Peppa Pig World in Hampshire and the Tintin museum in Belgium – all proving that the "man or myth" debate should NOT be seen as an obstacle preventing Nottingham and Notts from fully capitalising on their legendary Robin Hood connections. On a recent visit to London, I also noticed the building in Leicester Square that houses M&M's World, a visitor attraction that is based entirely on the popular chocolate and candy confectionery brand – and with that bizarre example I rest my case!