This paper responds to recent calls for more academic research and critical discussion on the relationship between spatial planning and city branding. Through the lens of Liverpool, the article analyses how key planning projects have delivered major transformations in the city's built environment and cultural landscape. More specifically, in concentrating on the performative nature of spatial planning it reveals the physical, symbolic and discursive re-imaging of Liverpool into a 'world class city'. Another aspect of the paper presents important socioeconomic datasets and offers a critical reading of the re-branding in showing how it presents an inaccurate representation of Liverpool. The evidence provided indicates that a more accurate label for Liverpool is a polarised and divided city, thereby questioning the fictive spectacle of city branding. Finally, the paper ends with some critical commentary on the role of spatial planning as an accessory to the sophistry of city branding.