Campaigns case study: Full speed ahead for electric vehicle drive

Drayson Racing Technologies, a sustainable motorsport and research and development business led by former science minister Lord Drayson, sought to demonstrate the UK's leadership in the electric vehicles (EVs) sector. It also wanted to prove that EVs could be fast, 'sexy' and dependable. It hired Influence Associates to help with a campaign, ahead of the start of an electric version of Formula 1, the FIA Formula E championship, in September 2014. They discovered that the world electric land speed record had stood at 175mph since the 1970s. Drayson Racing had converted its Le Mans prototype to run as an EV and believed it could beat the record.

Electric shock: Lord Drayson celebrates smashing the 40-year-old land speed record
Electric shock: Lord Drayson celebrates smashing the 40-year-old land speed record
Campaign    World Electric Land Speed Record
Client           Drayson Racing Technologies
PR team       Influence Associates
Timescale    May-June 2013
Budget         £70,000


Objectives

  • To show the world that EVs can be as compelling as petrol-powered vehicles
  • To demonstrate not just the speed but the scientific and technical challenge of accelerating a 1,000kg electric car to more than 200mph
  • To position Drayson Racing and its sponsors at the centre of the industry and fill the vacuum before the start of the FIA Formula E championship in 2014
  • To show up the major car manufacturers by doing something innovative


Strategy and plan
The team wanted to tell the story of the technical and scientific challenge behind breaking the record – it could not be about going fast for the sake of it. It also wanted to underscore Britain’s leadership position in EVs, with ‘motorsport valley’ in Oxfordshire and car factories in the North East. The team also needed to take a big risk on the day – there were no guarantees that the record would be broken.

Arrangements were made to make the run in Britain (most land speed record attempts take place in the US) on a long runway at RAF Elvington in Yorkshire. The team invited key automotive, national broadcast and technology media along with influencers and innovators from the technology and racing world to attend. Google chairman Eric Schmidt paid his first visit to Yorkshire and gave carefully managed interviews.

Measurement and evaluation
The story generated more than 2,250 global mentions. Sky News and Sky Sports News covered the event live. It also appeared on ITN and the BBC, and in the Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. Specialist magazines such as Autocar and The Manufacturer had the science and technology angle in advance of the record attempt. The team gave live business interviews to channels such as CNBC and CBS.

Results
With Lord Drayson (who has competed at Le Mans) behind the wheel, the car broke the record, setting an average speed of 204.2mph on its final run of the day.  Schmidt said he ‘wouldn’t be here unless Google was interested in investing’. Michelin had sponsored the event as a one-off, but afterwards signed up as Drayson’s tyre partner until September 2014. Qualcomm renewed its sponsorship of Drayson for the same period.

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