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Fair Isle attraction

Press Release   •   Jul 24, 2013 00:00 BST

A pair of Fair Isle cardigan-wearing Shetland ponies that are helping to sell Scotland on a global stage have “captured the imagination of the world”, according to Scottish Government Minister Derek Mackay, as he revealed that an estimated 600 million people had seen and shared the iconic images within one month of their launch in January.

The innovative VisitScotland campaign that features ponies Fivla and Vitamin wearing traditional Fair Isle knitwear helped the Year of Natural Scotland message achieve a marketing reach of 576,597,419 - hitting 72 per cent of the VisitScotland reach target for the year-long project in just one month.

Speaking in Shetland where he met Fivla and Vitamin, Mr Mackay said the new figures demonstrated that the ponies had raised the profile of Shetland, and Scotland as a whole, becoming an internet sensation, with thousands of Facebook posts, Tweets and more than 90,000 visitors to the ponies’ blog on the VisitScotland website in a short space of time.

He was also joined by Shetland knitter Doreen Brown, who is responsible for the ponies’ fashionable attire and has reported being inundated with orders since the campaign began. Doreen met the First Minister, Alex Salmond, at Scotland Week in New York in March where the Shetland ponies in cardigans joined a special parade through the streets of the iconic city.

Mr Mackay said Doreen’s success demonstrated the tangible benefits being brought to Shetland by the campaign, with a knitting tour of the Northern Isles also now being run by German tour operator Nordica Reisen.

The Minister for Local Government said: “Ever since they first donned their beautiful Fair Isle cardigans, the ponies have been superb ambassadors for Shetland and Scotland, providing a wonderful, warm and humorous image that has captured the imagination of the world and catapulted them into stardom during this Year of Natural Scotland.

“People across the whole country have taken Fivla and Vitamin to their hearts as a fantastic advert for the country as a whole – being simultaneously distinctly Scottish, but an unmistakeable symbol of the wonderful islands of Shetland.

“So far, this warmth has been replicated across the world, with an estimated 600 million people viewing the images and a huge number sharing them on social media, maximising the impact of the Year of Natural Scotland campaign and ensuring that VisitScotland hit 72 per cent of the annual target reach within just one month – a staggering result.

“And we are already beginning to see the benefits from this innovative campaign, with the local business that knitted the ponies’ wonderful jumpers now inundated with orders, and a new knitting tour of the northern isles in place to capitalise on the increased interest.

“All of this is fantastic news for tourism in Shetland tourism and more widely across Scotland as we prepare to welcome the world in 2014, with our second Year of Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said: “No one could have predicted the sheer scale of the phenomenal ‘Shetland pony in cardigans’ campaign. They were introduced to promote our Year of Natural Scotland in 2013 and they did the country proud. I am absolutely delighted with the success. We’ve had worldwide attention that money can’t buy and as well as raising the profile of Scotland, the work has catapulted the beauty of the Shetland Isles into the global spotlight.”

Doreen Brown said: “The response to the cardigans has been unbelievable! I’ve been inundated with phone calls from people all over the world requesting cardigans for themselves and even their pets. Going to New York to represent the country at Scotland Week was an amazing experience for me and it was an absolute honour to be involved.”

Notes to Editors

The Year of Natural Scotland celebrates Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty, and is one in a series of focus years that showcase Scotland’s greatest tourism assets. The ponies’ image marks the change from the Year of Creative Scotland in 2012 (represented by the cardigans) to the Year of Natural Scotland in 2013 (represented by the ponies and their habitat).

VisitScotland research demonstrates there was a reach figure of an estimated 600 million views or sharing on social media (576,597,419 across all markets) of the ponies’ images in the first month of their launch. The VisitScotland key performance indicator target for Year of Natural Scotland was an 800 million reach over the year, meaning this campaign alone has achieved 72 per cent of that target.

The 576 million reach can be broken down as follows: 206m (US and Canada), 194m (UK), 91m (Emerging Markets and Australasia) and 85m (EU).

These reach figures were based on: UK - print circulation and unique monthly users of a website; North America - print circulation, unique monthly users and broadcast viewership; Europe - print circulation and unique monthly users; Emerging/Australasia - print circulation and unique monthly users. All amounts are for Jan-Feb 2013.

Shetland knitter, Doreen Brown of Shetland Connection ( has been inundated with orders since the campaign with requests for coats for donkeys, dogs and human sweaters.

Other positive outcomes from the campaign included the introduction of a special knitting tour to the Northern Isles. German Tour Operator, Nordica Reisen’s “Shetland Special” makes visits to textile centres, weavers and wool producers in the region.

Scottish ministers are in Shetland for the First of the Scottish Government’s summer cabinet programme. The Scottish Cabinet will hold a formal meeting in Lerwick, before participating in a series of events and visits, including a civic reception and a public discussion.

Since they began in 2007, more than 4,000 people have attended summer cabinet events in Dundee, Melrose, Stornoway, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dumfries, Inverness, Pitlochry, Isle of Bute, Dornoch, Stirling, Kilmarnock, Stranraer, Elgin, Kirkcaldy, Skye, Orkney and Renfrew. Later this summer, the cabinet will meet in Hawick, Campbeltown and Fraserburgh.


SG Communications


Aileen Easton


Christopher Mackie


Notes to Editors:

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  • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland. 
  • The organisation has three key roles:
  1. To market Scotland to all parts of the world to attract visitors
  2. To provide information – and inspiration – to visitors and potential visitors so they get the best out of a visit to Scotland
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  • VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
  • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
  • 2014 is the year Scotland welcomes the world, when it hosts the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and more than 800 Homecoming events throughout the country.For more information on Homecoming Scotland 2014, go to 
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  • According to a recent Deloitte study, tourism employs 270,000 people in Scotland in 20,000 diverse businesses. The same study calculates that the industry contributes £11 billion annually (direct and indirect impact, including day visits) and supports around 10 per cent of employment in Scotland. Almost 16 million tourists take overnight trips to Scotland.
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