Radio & Online Communications: Best of Broadcast - The campaign trail

Radio campaigns involve far more strategic planning than just a day in the studio. PRWeek follows markettiers4DC on one of its recent successes for client Vodafone and its Formula 1 event for Ferrari.

The vast sums of money invested in Formula 1 sponsorship only seem to make sense when considered against the number of people who follow the sport. F1 regularly attracts a TV audience of around 360 million viewers to each match race - a cumulative annual audience of 6.5 billion people.

Given this huge global TV following, it becomes clearer why sponsors are willing to spend large slices of their marketing budget on prominent branding for the livery of the top F1 teams.

But TV is not the only broadcast medium covering the sport. Many sponsors tend to overlook the millions of listeners who clamour to their radios to follow each meeting when they cannot get to a TV.

As the sponsor of the Italian Ferrari team, Vodafone asked markettiers4DC to create a campaign to build awareness of the firm as a major global brand. It wanted a strategy that would generate coverage of its sponsorship of the Ferrari team on major radio stations in the UK, Japan, Australia, Spain, Italy and Germany.

The objectives were simple: to ensure Vodafone was positioned as an authoritative voice on F1 and that Vodafone had major share of voice over Ferrari.

This would be achieved by raising awareness of the Vodafone Scooter Cup; a 'fun' press event in which leading drivers, such as Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, would swap four wheels for two in the build-up to the Italian Grand Prix.

The challenge

F1 is not generally considered fertile ground for radio, being such a visual sport. As a result, most sponsors do not even invite radio journalists to press trips. But the Vodafone Scooter Cup at the Monza scooter track in Italy was different. Rather than ignoring radio journalists, two - from Capital Sports Network and GWR - were invited to race against Schumacher as team mates of Barrichello to see if they could bring about a rare defeat for Schumacher.

These two journalists were selected because, between them, they would provide access to 56 stations, and it was important that the media participate in the event in order to secure coverage.

'Unlike most press events where journalists come along and then um-and-ah about whether or not they will cover it, we said: "It's up to you what you say, but if you are coming to this event, you must cover it",' says markettiers4DC MD Howard Kosky.

But these two journalists alone were not enough to provide the reach required, points out Kosky. To gain coverage beyond these networks, in the UK and internationally, Vodafone and Ferrari spokespeople were lined up so that instant access was possible for comment. Vodafone's authority was enhanced with global corporate comms director Mike Caldwell stationed at the trackside as a reporter delivering immediate results of the race.

In order that coverage could reach the Japanese, Spanish, Italian and German markets, translations of news releases were sent to relevant stations, with soundbites from Barrichello, Schumacher and Caldwell highlighted within the releases so that news items could be quickly assembled.

This was an essential element in making the event a live radio experience.

While this would cater to the 'live news' requirements of broadcasters, post-event coverage was likely to be feature-led, so the team put together feature material using recorded interviews with relevant spokespeople and provided branded merchandise for competition prizes.

The two strategies - participation and live news - were aimed at overcoming the limitations of F1 as a sport for radio creatively. By inviting the two journalists to take part and by offering live news, as well as a range of special features, the campaign would offer an extra dimension to broadcasters.

Nevertheless, neither of these strategies would have worked without understanding exactly how each broadcaster would want to handle the story and the angles they would like to pursue with the campaign's selected spokespeople.

The key to producing successful radio material is to provide editorial content that not only fits the needs of the brand but also offers compelling, entertaining editorial content for the radio station.

The method

An outside broadcast (OB) studio was set up at the scooter track in Monza, Italy, which is situated away from the Grand Prix circuit. This provided prime positioning for the scooter race and a base for spokespeople to report back from.

Caldwell was interviewed before, during and after the race, and these interviews were put together in several formats. One of them was a post-event documentary package, containing interviews with Schumacher and Barrichello, with Caldwell providing a retrospective look at the success of the Scooter Cup.

The trackside OB team had to maintain constant contact with all media targets to ensure they were receiving all of the information and audio they required as quickly as possible while the race was on. And to add to the drama, the Capital journalist wore a lapel microphone around the track, so he could deliver a roving commentary.

Once all the interviews, news feeds and competitions were distributed, the media liaison team followed up with all contacts. This is particularly important for non-live interviews and those where news hubs have conducted an interview and then distributed it across a network of stations.

The packing and distribution of competition prize packs ensured that coverage was specific to the Scooter Cup and the Italian Grand Prix, and coincided with coverage achieved using speech-based mechanics.

The results

Despite the visual nature of F1 as a sport, the campaign, evaluated by the KWHR Network, managed to deliver more than 18 hours of branded coverage and a half-hour feature on the Capital Gold network.

The combination of live news feeds that aimed to make listeners feel as if they too were at the trackside, the participation of the two journalists and the post-event documentary materials all gave the event a far greater appeal to radio stations than is normally associated with F1.

In total, 297 radio stations covered the event either through studio interviews, live presenter reads, competitions or some form of provided audio. This delivered a total audience reach of more than 64.5 million over the 18.5 hours of coverage generated.

Competitions ran on Greater London station Capital Gold, as well as on virtually every BBC regional station and many national stations, including BBC GMR, BBC North West, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio Jersey, BBC Radio Leeds, as well as BRMB, Century Radio and Essex FM.

Studio interviews were conducted on British Forces Broadcasting Services (Worldwide), Classic Gold 1260, GWR FM, Champion 103 FM, Orchard FM and SGR FM.

Live presenter reads were broadcast on Capital in London and Capital Gold in Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham, South Hampshire and Kent.

Although an event heavily associated with F1, the coverage put Vodafone at the forefront as a brand with authority on F1 and a major global brand in its own right.


1 As with any campaign, know who your target audience is and identify the radio media it will be listening to.

You then need to know the programme environment and style, not just the listener figures.

2 It is important to know what the station output sounds like. Listen to the station via the website before making the call.

3 Make sure that the information you have or the spokesperson you use is relevant to the programme you're targeting. Regionality and age profile are key. Remember that BBC Radio 2 competes with BBC Lancashire.

4 There is competition for editorial space on radio too. Have you offered everything you can? The better your contribution the higher up the pecking order in the station's priority list you will be.

5 Build relationships. Most PROs know the key contacts in print media by name; do the same for radio.

6 Remember it's a fast-paced, 24/7 media. If you receive a request to provide information/spokesperson/merchandise prizes you need to respond with efficiency. Don't take an entire day.

7 If what you're offering isn't applicable to programming, don't try to keep pushing it.

8 Remember radio stations will conduct interviews from 6am, don't feel the need to always start at 9am.

9 Treat radio with respect - it's a strong area of the media in its own right and needs a different approach to print.

10 Play to its strengths. It can make your brand approachable, caring, understanding and trusted if you use it correctly.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in