CAMPAIGN: Honda F1 goes ad-free for green glory

Management company 19 was signed up to work with the Honda Racing F1 team ahead of the 2007 Formula One season. Read on...

Campaign: Launch of My Earth Dream
Client: Honda Racing F1
PR team: Henry’s House and 19
Timescale: October 2006 – Feb 2007
Budget: £100,000+

President Simon Fuller had the idea to help raise environmental awareness by featuring a huge image of Earth, in place of the advertising and sponsor logos on the RA107 F1 car. Via the website, the public could pledge to make a lifestyle change to improve the environment, make a donation to an environmental charity and get their name on the car in the form of a tiny individual pixel used to build the image.

To create an international launch for the My Earth Dream message and the Earth car. To provide a platform for a year-long campaign to take this message to a global audience.

The global initiative meant PR agency Henry’s House would target the 20 biggest ­media outlets around the world, such as CNN, BBC and Nippon TV – but its challenge was to involve them all in a single day. Journalists were ­invited to an event with only the promise that ‘something special’ would be unveiled at the RA107 F1 car’s marketing launch, while an embargoed press release was sent out on the wires at 6am that morning.

Using an appropriate venue – the Earth Gallery of the Science Museum – briefings kicked off at 7am and ran hourly throughout the day to make sure all time zones were covered. HH invited publications and broadcasters in their relevant groups, such as international stringers for overseas titles and environmental correspondents, and tailored the briefings to suit the various groups. At each briefing, the car was unveiled, a presentation was delivered and journalists were given the opportunity to interview Honda Racing CEO Nick Fry and Honda ­drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello in small groups.

The teams managed to keep to the tight schedule so that live broadcasts could be conduc­ted with international news channels throughout the day during breaks in the presentations.

HH and 19 had anticipated a certain amount of criticism over the apparent contradiction of a racing car with an environmental message and had prepared responses for the presenters.

Most of the UK national newspapers, including The Independent, The Sun, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Times, covered the launch. International newspapers included Algemeen Dagblad, Asahi Shimbun, Figaro and Canadian National Post, while UK ­regional press interest included the Yorkshire Evening Post and Jersey Evening Post. Car magazines such as AutoSport and Top Gear also covered the event, as did TV channels including Sky News, CNN, BBC, and Nippon TV. Bloomberg and Times Online and BBC regional radio also ran stories.

Although it has no information yet on the amount of money pledged, or website hits, HH says there has been overwhelming interest in the ­initiative and a largely positive response.

Top Gear magazine editor Michael Harvey says: ‘The launch wasn’t like other glamorous or brash car launches – it was quite low key, which was entirely appropriate. I thought that it was a very different initiative and from a PR perspective forced people to address the environmental message.’


Simon Breakell (l), sports promotions manager at energy company E.ON: There is no doubt that global warming is one of the biggest challenges facing the modern world. Honda should be praised for an innovative app­roach to raise awareness of the issue.

Unveiling the new look, logo and sponsor-free race car at the Natural History Museum in London pro­vided an ideal backdrop and ­ensured a good turn out from the nati­onal and international media. How­­ever, as with any PR cam­paign, the devil is in the detail and success can only be measured beyond a creative photo stunt.

Driver Jenson Button and his team mate will send about 500kg of CO2 into the atmosphere on each Grand Prix week­end. That adds up to approximately 17 tonnes by the end of the 2007 season.

In addition, the F1 season also requires Button and Barrichello to fly over 90,000 miles between their Monaco bases and race circuits. On top of that, there will be flights to test destinations and promo­tio­nal events, plus scores of team staff and hundreds of tonnes of equip­ment transported around the world.

Without doubt it is going to require significant numbers of people to fulfil the pledges listed by Honda, in order to ensure the green machines stay on track. And therein lies another challenge for the campaign. How does Honda ensure people are actually going honour the pledges they make?

It will be interesting to see the results, but for now, the message from Honda is loud and clear: don’t do what I do, do what I say.


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