Cyber-Physical Taxi GP Vodafone/McLaren Game


Vodafone Taxi GP, an interactive and engaging on and offline game and competition, was Vodafone’s core communications campaign to activate their sponsorship of McLaren F1. The overarching objective of both the Taxi GP initiative in particular (and its relevant supporting activity) and the F1 deal in general was to increase awareness of and opinion of the Vodafone brand.


The Vodafone Taxi GP was created to bring a taste of the exclusive and sometimes hard-to-access world of F1 into the everyday lives of the public. It is a fantasy-style driving/racing game, the aim of which is to finish a season of races before anyone else. Players do this by backing and tracking the best combination of GPS-enabled taxis which are clocking up the race distance on their behalf in the real world.


Players created a fantasy team from real life cabbies to complete in 5 F1 races across UK cities, for hundreds of exclusive prizes. The drivers were equipped with liveried cabs and GPS enabled phones so they could Twitter with the speed they travelled controlled by the ‘fares’ they picked up


The campaign was created by Vodafone and a slew of agencies including Dare, Ignite, Carat Sponsorship and Academy.


The competition was launched with a film featuring drivers Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalinen (playing cabbies) and as well as the viral film launch, it includes an introductory animation, a competition site and supporting advertising.


The game/competition mirrored five key Grand Prix season through the summer with a grand prize of a VIP trip to the Italian Grand Prix in Monza for the season champion and hundreds of other prizes including tickets to the Santander British Grand Prix at Silverstone, hot laps with Lewis Hamilton, HTC MagicTM handsets and signed VMM merchandise.


To drive registration and participation national press activity ran a few weeks before the Turkish GP and the brand sponsored online F1 content on a re-branded an area within the EA Sports Complex that sits as a virtual hub on the Playstation3 Hom and on the Top Gear website.


A significant part of the UK supporting activity to drive participation in the online game and competition saw Vodafone take exclusive sponsorship of topgear.com’s dedicated F1 section – the Sunday Afternoon Club. This is an area of the BBC TV programme’s site that pulls together race previews and analysis with user-generated comments and insight.


To ensure maximum impact and relevance, Vodafone bought this space takeover during key Grand Prix weekends during the season. The selection of the space was to attempt to deliver reach into both F1 supporters and also reach a broader, automotive enthusiast audience.


This includes a statement of ‘in association’ (with Vodafone), which was a first for topgear.com, ran across the Sunday Afternoon Club during the 2009 season. This was supported by six four-day long Vodafone roadblocks of the topgear.com homepage and Sunday Afternoon Club section, comprising leader board, MPU and skyscraper formats, on key Grand Prix weekends, editorial coverage of Vodafone’s Taxi GP competition, and a series of exclusive advertising placements in the Top Gear e-newsletter sent in and around key Grand Prix.


According to the brand and Top Gear themselves, through the campaign Vodafone took a 50% share-of voice across the topgear.com site during the week of each of the six key race weekends. This solidified the link between the brand and F1. Results also showed topgear.com to be the main driver of registered online participants for the Vodafone Taxi GP game.


Vodafone also ran a social media outreach programme to engage with motorsport enthusiasts within blogs and forums. It also re-branded 300 taxis across the key cities where these Taxi Grand Prix are taking place. To enhance this campaign Carat Sponsorship also created a radio promotion with talkSPORT, where the station rang the Vodafone cabs twice a day in each city offering the lucky passengers a chance to win a pair of tickets to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The promotion took place over 5 days in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Birmingham from 10th to 14th June. The on-air promotion was supported by a microsite on talkSPORT.net offering another chance to win a pair of tickets to the British Grand Prix, and a display ad in the talkSPORT e-magazine.


The brand says the campaign has a total reach of over 15 million people with more than 8,300 registered teams and more than 1 million YouTube.




A clever combination of real world and digital engagement , this campaign is further evidence of Vodafone’s innovative and multi-platform approach to its backing of McLaren and F1. This consumer initiative is one of a number of programmes activating around its sponsorship that range from consumer targeted work such as this, to senior management/supplier/stakeholder hospitality to SME targeted schemes.


Vodafone has certainly backed its sponsorship with heavyweight activation investment. The brand has been the title sponsor and ‘Official Mobile Partner’ of McLaren Mercedes since early 2007 and the deal followed on from the brand’s previous backing of the Ferrari F1 team. The company has not disclosed the full activation-related financial terms of the McLaren deal (the Ferrari contract has been valued at about $40m a year), but many see it as having replaced budget previously used in its $15.9m short sponsorship of Manchester United.


The deal includes including naming rights of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, dominant title sponsorship branding on the cars, drivers’ and pit crews’ overalls and helmets and other marketing activation opportunities ranging from hospitality, merchandising, and promotional rights including access to drivers and track days, behind-the-scenes access to the team and the ability to bring exclusive content to Vodafone customers.


Focused placement and partnership seem key to success of this initiative. The use of talkSPORT, EA Games and PlayStation 3 digital home and the site of the internationally popular TV show and magazine certainly seem like a sensible environments for Vodafone to use to engage with a target audience passionate about motor sports.













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