In 2003, BP signed up to be a sponsor of one of 12 yachts participating in the 2004/05 Global Challenge, formerly the BT-sponsored round-the-world yacht race. Without a title sponsor, PR for the race was lower key compared with previous years.
To raise the profile of BP's involvement in the race, especially at major ports of call. To ensure coverage was not restricted to the traditional areas of sport and sailing magazines.
Strategy and Plan
Because BP wanted to promote the messages of safety, technology and its status as a brand with which people can associate, the PR team set about identifying human interest stories for the media. As this was an amateur race, rather than a professional one, Sponsorship Consulting targeted lifestyle press rather than sports media.
The PR team met the crew of BP Explorer at a pre-race party and interviewed them about why they were taking part in the race. Several, who had interesting stories to tell, were promoted heavily to the media: one woman, for example, had raised the £25,000 entry fee by posing for a nude calendar with her friends.
As the race progressed, the lifestyle theme was continued by taking the newly docked sailors to local hairdressing salons for a makeover, to which local press were invited. In ports where BP has offices, such as Buenos Aires, Wellington and Cape Town, Sponsorship Consulting worked with BP's local press teams to run other media events.
The challenge was to keep up the momentum of race coverage while the boats were out of port. This prompted press releases on things such as 'weird and wonderful ways to spend Christmas'. Meanwhile, pictures of the BP Explorer crew at various locations were sent to the press.
Measurement and Evaluation
The Daily Express ran a double-page spread, while articles featured in the Daily Mail, the Sunday Express and The Times. Overseas coverage included Wellington's Dominion Post, Cape Times and the Boston Globe. Broadcast coverage included pieces on regional stations, such as BBC West Midlands.
Durrants analysed the coverage, showing 98 per cent to be positive, with 87 per cent mentioning key messages.
Press coverage for BP increased by 250 per cent from the last race in 2000/01, with more than 250 articles in regional newspapers. The BP press office has also reported receiving a flood of calls from members of the public keen to take part in the next race, although no figures are available.
Satnam Rana, BBC Midlands Today reporter and presenter of radio station Midlands Masala, followed the progress of a local crew member. 'The PR team was brilliant. It kept in touch when anything newsworthy happened for the radio show,' she says.
'For TV, I went to Portsmouth for the weekend, and as I had to leave early on the Sunday, missing the boat coming in to port, the PR team took me out to sea early to get footage, sorted out a line feed and negotiated footage from (broadcaster) Meridian for free.'