A combination of new technology platforms and traditional media-led PR succeeded in bringing title sponsor Velux’s brand to the fore during the 5 Oceans Solo Round The World Yacht Race.
Since the Velux 5 Oceans race began back in 1982, the event has attracted considerable interest within the specific sailing media. But both title sponsor Velux and the race organisers wanted to widen this interest across lifestyle and general interest targets and reach a new, mainstream audience.
For the title sponsor, reach and awareness, it seems, are all importrant.
Velux, a world leader in roof windows and skylights has renewed its title sponsorship of the event because it feels the 30,000 mile around the world solo sailing race is symbolic of the brand’s key values – daylight and fresh air. Furthermore, Velux CMO Michael Rasmussen says that the sponsorship matches the company’s strategic and commercial objectives – with an emphasis placed on the value of the worldwide media exposure the sponsorship brings and its effect on increasing brand awareness in Velux’s key markets.
Rasmussen also says that the sponsorship has also helped create a sense of team spirit among the company’s employees who are spread around the globe in more than 40 markets in five continents.
So Velux 5 Oceans organisers hired tech outfit On-The-Water Anarchy and PR experts Hill+Knowlton Strategies to promote its nine month around-the-world race.
To provide easily accessible live coverage, the start of the race was streamed live on the internet (despite the start being two miles offshore) by the US based team On-The-Water Anarchy. Then, once racing had started for real Velux 5 Oceans website will switch into a dedicated race viewer mode which integrated the latest news with videos, photographs and onboard journals.
The team also introduced iRace, the Velux 5 Oceans mobile app. Available in both iPhone and Android formats, iRace aims to provide an entirely new way for fans to follow ocean racing from many miles away (withoutn the benefit of traditional TV coverage).
Photographs, videos, breaking news and onboard race journals were streamed directly to the app, alongside up-to-date 2D and 3D position reports from all the skippers.
PR agency Hill+Knowlton Strategies wwere hired to promote its nine month around-the-world race.
With the objective of taking the story beyond the traditional realms of the sports and sailing press, reaching a much broader audience and delivering high value media content across as many platforms as possible.
As a solution to the challenge, H+K designed a multi-market network approach for the event, providing the travelling comms team with proactive press office support in the UK, US, France, Poland, New Zealand and Canada, centrally co-ordinated from London.
This enabled the comms team to share ideas and knowledge and pass information across territories.
In the UK, H+K secured and set up a race-long blog with The Independent Online, involving British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major. Key journalists were invited to attend stopovers in Cape Town and La Rochelle.
Stanmore-Major also conducted regular telephone interviews from the ocean. H+K also identified interview opportunities with race ambassador and British sailing stalwart Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to further generate interest among mainstream lifestyle/consumer targets.
The same strategy was also executed in Poland, US, New Zealand, France and Canada, tailored to each territory – telling either the story of their home skippers, or relating to specific cities in which the race stopped. H+K negotiated inclusion of Velux 5 Oceans branded imagery and mentions throughout all coverage, and where possible, seeded strategic Velux messaging and calls to action, to promote an online following and social networking.
Highlights of press coverage included full-page features in the London Evening Standard and The Independent, plus content on The Sun and FHM online.
There were several profile interviews with Knox-Johnston, featuring in Sport Magazine, The Mail on Sunday, The Telegraph Magazine, Observer Magazine and The Independent Magazine. Coverage was international and encompassed a wide range of media.
During the race the stopover ports of La Rochelle, Wellington and Auckland were the highest profile, with 50,000 people visiting in La Rochelle, 25,000 in Wellington and 30,000 in Charleston.
Proactive media relations drove significant traffic to the velux5oceans.com website, which received 2,825,846 visits throughout the race. The online Velux 5 Oceans game was played by 90,000 people.
It can be a challenge to get the mainstream emdia interested in psorting events outside of football. This is especially true for sailing – a sport which has long been seen to have an elitist reputation
H+K has challenged the status quo by putting forward national heroes who could tell personal stories for each target country, share experiences and ultimately capture the imagination of a wide audience.
At the execution level, the campaign is a good example of best practice in that it was run locally but co-ordinated from a central hub, giving an opportunity to share learnings from the initiatives that were launched in different countries.
The online race-tracking application is a great example of a social media engagement tool that definitely contributed to the overall success of the campaign.