Marcoms: Business - Sharp panels secure royal seal of approval

Since 2005, Sharp has manufactured solar panels in Wrexham. But a year ago, only one per cent of its panels were being installed in the UK.

Sharp: campaign led to interest in its Installer Academy
Sharp: campaign led to interest in its Installer Academy

Campaign Solar: A Renewable Power That's FIT for Purpose
Client Sharp Solar
PR team Brands2Life
Timescale May 2010-May 2011
Budget Less than £50,000

Understanding of solar panels on home soil was low and the product needed a greater presence in the renewable power marketplace. When the Government launched its feed-in-tariff (FIT) scheme last April, which encourages investment in renewable technology, Sharp asked Brands2Life to start a year-long campaign to raise the profile of solar power and secure its future within the UK market.

Objectives

  • To raise interest in solar power in the UK
  • To position Sharp as the leading solar power industry voice
  • To drive sales among UK businesses.

Strategy and plan

The agency started by combating confused messages around solar power in the UK. It found that most people, with a perceived notion of a lack of UK sunshine, thought solar energy was not an option.

Brands2Life used PR and public affairs tactics to react to the UK news agenda and place Sharp at the forefront of the industry. Journalists and influencers were targeted to help build relationships, ensure maximum media exposure and react to the latest stories including Clarence House seeking planning permission to instal solar panels and Glastonbury Festival's renewable energy drive.

Exclusives for newspapers such as The Observer's Innovator column, featuring the prototype of the world's smallest solar cell, were offered.

The results of research highlighting benefits to businesses of installing solar panels were also released.

A competition was devised in collaboration with The Sun for five people wanting to start a renewables company to win places at the Sharp Installer Academy, highlighting the industry as a growth economy for UK businesses.

Politicians were targeted, focusing on the formation of the Associate Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group Solar PV Forum.

The agency lobbied and met politicians including shadow energy minister Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister of State for Policy Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Measurement and evaluation

More than 220 pieces of media coverage were generated, including articles in The Independent, The Guardian, Daily Mail and The Sunday Times, and on BBC Wales.

Results

An additional 10,000 customer enquiries resulted from the campaign, with a 200 per cent rise in sales - equivalent to 300,000 new solar panels. UK revenues increased from EUR13m to just under EUR90m.

The campaign also produced a significant response from influential individuals including Prince Charles, who chose to have Sharp panels installed at Clarence House. The campaign has been shortlisted for a PRWeek Award.

SECOND OPINION - ALASTAIR TURNER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ASPECTUS PR

Brands2Life delivered an outstanding campaign. Measure success in terms of coverage and Sharp has received a significant return on investment.

PR is all about supporting the client's business goals while creating effective conditions for selling, and it was here that the agency really delivered.

Making such a significant contribution to Sharp's growth during the course of the 12-month campaign was a considerable achievement. The proactive strategy backed up by reactive media work and original research has exceeded the brief.

It may have been a good idea to have devoted more time to actually shaping the news agenda instead of chasing stories, but in the context of such impressive results that is a moot point.

Sharp now has a great opportunity to maintain its market-leading position and it will be interesting to hear about the next phase. This could focus on successful installations, happy customers and personal testimonies from those graduating from the Sharp Installer Academy.

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