Editorial: Bulgaria in “Bookies land”

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It’s only been a week since we released our song for Eurovision 2017. It was a very emotional moment for us, because not only had a lot of effort has been invested in this entry, but also because we didn’t have any clue how the public would react to our choice. You can imagine how our expectations had been varying between optimism to total devastating criticism. It was always going to be difficult following up last year’s result, because Bulgaria now has a track record to defend and the expectations are higher. That’s why sending someone who is not Poli Genova with a song that is so drastically different from “If Love Was A Crime” was seen as a risk in our book. However, we can’t deny it – the early reaction to “Beautiful Mess” greatly exceeded even our most optimistic expectations, and the good reception of the entry has even resulted in a very high performance on the betting markets. That’s what we will focus on in this editorial. Before concentrating on the positive and negative sides of this situation, let us put up one important disclaimer. The betting odds may be a great tool to follow the current situation at Eurovision, because they reflect a variety of factors and can change based on the actions of every team. If you are doing well, your odds normally will be shortening and if the opposite – they will be drifting. So that’s a nice way to get a comprehensive feedback for the entry from the public. Over the last few years, with the Internet totally dominating the communication environment, betting odds have become a valuable resource, as it’s easier to draw quick conclusions on what people like and their potential voting patterns than it was during the pre-Internet era. However, we have also seen a number of examples of how the betting odds can get it wrong, in some cases even dramatically, so we have to be extremely cautious when referring to them.

THE POSITIVE SIDE

1.) The promotion. The single most important task for every promotional campaign is to reach as many people as possible. Being high on the betting odds makes our entry more visible and more views are granted that way. The more views we get, the more people will see (and hopefully like) the song and keep that positive momentum going until May.

2.) Boost of ambition. When we are high, that is certainly a ego-pleasing factor for the whole team as you get the very first positive recognition for your work. And that boosts our ambition even further as there is no other way but to deliver on people’s trust. For example, as a bit of insider’s knowledge, the initial reaction that we got from the public inspired us to dramatically modify our staging plans for Kyiv, and caused us to reach out to international names with proven success in this field. Staging was indeed a pre-requisite for the internal selection, but now nothing seems good enough, so having experienced people to polish our stage act is a must. Furthermore, the promotion will be also strengthened so that we match this whole new situation and try delivering on the expectations.

3.) Self-confidence. Things have changed a lot since our return last year. Before our two years of absence, the tagline of our Eurovision participation was: “go for the sake of being there”, but now it’s very different. Having early indicators from fans and betting markets that we do what we do well bolsters our sense of conviction, and that’s quite important for a country that is not used to this kind of success. In all honesty – there is not a ton of room for self-confidence with such a rich portfolio of failures (albeit well-intentioned ones!) in our Eurovision portfolio.

THE NEGATIVE SIDE

1.) The risk of overdoing things. Overdoing is just as bad as complacency, so now there is a need for careful analysis of where we are and what is needed.  No more, no less. It’s currently our main task in the agenda, because going too far will hurt our chances. Excess can be tempting, especially at Eurovision, but the last thing we want to do is over-egg our pudding.

2.) The pressure. A country that has never had the chance to be successful and under the spotlight is more likely to burn out under the burden of the pressure. This is a totally new situation for us at the contest – Bulgaria is not Sweden or Ireland – so keeping the pressure balanced is essential. To learn how to behave in a situation like this is actually a must if we want to have success. A bit of pressure can be healthy, of course, as it can drive us to do great things, but we don’t want smoke coming out of our ears.

3.) A shot in the dark? When we say that Bulgaria is not Sweden, we mean more than the obvious facts of geography. Both Italy and Sweden, who are also in the upper ranks of the betting odds at the moment, have shown their visions for the staging, to some extent. Bulgaria on the other hand, is still a blank piece of paper. All of the parts of the puzzle will come together only in May, when it is already far too late for any dramatic changes if the feedback is not good. Subtle changes, like costuming, may still be made, but we have to nail the stage show, or that’s it. This is the biggest disadvantage of the internal selections – you get an idea of how people feel about your artist and song, but you don’t really know how they will react towards the other parts of the Eurovision bundle. When you have a national final, the whole package is presented and you get feedback almost instantly, through the magic of social media. In our case, it’s just not possible, so we’d better be perfect!

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