Some of the people that stumble upon Volvo Ocean Race when zapping broadcast TV or reading a daily paper or a magazine off line will get curious. Curiosity transforms to searches on Google and on Baidu in China. Potentially also to searches in iTunes App Store and Google Play. Especially when a TV News anchor are using our app for more than 4 minutes in his news show.
Then I want them to find us. Online publications means clicks. Then I want something for them to be linked to.
With limited resources (people & money) one need to prioritise and make choices of where to tell one’s stories. And important: where not to tell them.
It’s not surprising we chose Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Twitter. To be where there is already an audience. And of course we developed a responsive website since large segments of the audience are mobile by default.
In China we needed to establish substituting channels. We chose to work with WeChat (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram), Youku & V.QQ (Youtube). Sina Weibo & Tencent Weibo were our substitutes for a Chinese website. We relied on an agency setup in China but I had a Chinese native marketer in my internal team. Absolutely crucial to have. One should be humble for the cultural differences. Especially when it comes to PR and in doing business – your western PR expertise isn’t that valuable. And one must not underestimate the need of Chinese specific cultural and market space knowledge.
Except PR we used the most efficient marketing method to target people. We used geo-targeted and interest based campaigns on Facebook. The engine in our online outreach.
Deciding factors were our:
- Growth objective
- Engagement objective
All transformed to measurable KPI’s. I.e CPL (cost per like), an aggressive challenge to double the engagement rate despite a rapid growth and kept an eye on the churn (unlikes). It’s really a numbers game more than anything else. In this way we ensured a sustainable and controlled growth of a quality audience.
During this short period of time we acquired 20% of the total potential audience we targeted in our key markets. And they stayed and were engaged.
The strategy was to serve people high quality content. Content that makes them take the decision to hook up with us – i.e on Facebook that equals liking our page. Then to deliver on that quality promise in the next content piece they’ll see from us in their feed. Choosing to like and to share that next piece to their friends and by that becoming engaged brand fans that are key to build the organic network growth. On Facebook our growth was 487% up to +1.2 million fans that was twice as engaged as before.
We also used Facebook to organically promote the beautiful photos on Instagram and our live shows on Youtube. Facebook (together with Youtube) was also key to organically promote our mobile app for iOS and Android. Even if we got observant and decreased our cross promotion in January after Facebook’s announcement in November about overly promotional posts we reached near to 400 000 app downloads. Organically that is.
The content & The platforms
Short and engaging videos and daily photos from our on board reporters on each boats. Like this one showing match racing near Point memo – the most remote position on earth. The closest human beings are the space station crew above them…
To reach outside our core segment, people interested in sail racing, we also ran two nine month long art and music challenges. Making Waves Music and Making Waves Art were we invited local talents from the 9 countries we visited to interpret the race in their way.
Listen to the nine tracks, embedded from Sound Cloud, while you’re browsing through the art pieces embedded from Pinterest.
We increased the number of video views with 524% to 49.900.000 views on Facebook and Youtube combined.
On Youtube in average +50% of each video were viewed. Impressive considering many videos being up to 26 minutes long.
The Youtube subscription base increased by 307% compared to the previous race.
Despite being the aggregator for all our videos we also used Youtube for our live shows like this one about death rolls in the Southern Ocean:
One could also enjoy all our live streams from the racing. And racing high lights like this one from the Cape Town leg start:
Our primary focus was to show the beautiful and more artistic side of the race and the nature environments of the race. Browse through and enjoy the beauty of a few of them below:
The concept proved to be right. Our engagement rate out-performed many other large sport events
We performed twice as good as the TOP 25 brands on Instagram – including Adidas, Victoria’s Secret and Starbucks – according to Social Baker. Not bad while having a growth at 666%.
Photo: Ainhoa Sanchez. The Volvo Ocean Race Control, designed in cooperation with NASA.
From our Race Control in Alicante, Spain our experts used Twitter to share fast and deep insights about the racing and the weather conditions, acting as the hub retweeting the best from engaged experts, racing teams and not at least – tweets directly from the racing boats. When conditions allowed we also live-tweeted from our Helicopters.
We also had fun publishing these cartoons made by Mark O’Brian:
Our Twitter concept paid of – growth was 180%.
The mobile app
We made our app for both iOS and Android where the user experience was different for smart phone and tablet users. The most appreciated function in the mobile app was the race tracker where one could follow the fleet and their conditionsOur almost 400 000 (+111%) app users could also enjoy all our live streams and live shows in the app. To be sure not to miss anything they could configure what push notifications they wanted. Or if they preferred to get notified by SMS or email.An average app user session lasted for 1 minute and 21 seconds. And the live streams were viewed +1.5 million times.
My pupils and I have been following the Race via the App since the start in Alicante. We have learned so much about sailing, geography, oceans, cultures and the environment. This has been the highlight of every day for me and my pupils.
Marie Eriksson, teacher
The Online Game
We atracted more than 200.000 people to our online game. In average they spent almost 14 minutes per day with the game during 9 months.
The winner of each virtual leg won a trip to our Race Village where they were guided among sailing super stars, got to experience our amazing Volvo Ocean 65’s away from keyboard and could enjoy all the Race Village attractions. Of course we also gave them their moment of fame:
That’s brand engagement!
The tracker was not only in the mobile app. It was also available on the website. However I’m most proud over how fast my team actioned when Google, with short notice, announced they would stop supporting certain plugins for the Chrome web browser.
A few months into the race, while the race was running, we developed a desktop tracker free to download. Available for Mac, Windows and Linux. As mentioned above – the tracker was very popular. Compared to the previous race we increased the number of unique tracker users with 53% to 1.4 Million.
Already back in 2010 I wrote (in Swedish) about the need of a digital brand sphere rather than a website.
This is more true than ever before. Our responsive website was the ultimate aggregator of all our content posted in social channels. We also aggregated a social stream of what other’s were posting about the race on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The website was available in English, French, Spanish and Chinese.
On top of that the web site’s photo galleries offered a unique way to get inside the race by every day presenting a set of photos with short image captions from each of our on board reporters. Great to just swipe oneself through the race day. Something to really elaborate on for any brand. The photos in this gallery are each of the On Board Reporter’s own favorites.
Photo credits goes to: Amory Ross – Team Alvimedica, Brian Carlin – Team Vestas Wind, Stefan Coppers – Team Brunel, Matt Knighton – Abu Dhabi, Sam Greenfield – Dongfeng Race Team, Yann Riou – Dongfeng Race Team, Anna-Lena Eled – Team SCA & Corinna Halloran – Team SCA.
Getty Images & The Volvo Ocean Race Image bank
We cooperated with Getty Images, the largest photo agency in the world, for distribution of all the great photos from the race.
We also served journalist, bloggers and others with our own photo library where they could search and download high resolution photos.
Broadcast and Video On Demand (VOD)
I was the executive producer of ”Life at the Extreme” – 39 weekly and 26 minute long episodes about the race, the people on board and behind the scenes. The show, and news about the race, was aired in 83 countries by 242 broadcasters. Including NBC Sport, Sky, Chinese CCTV and RedBull TV.
Every day we produced video news releases in several languages and made them available for download and editing through our broadcast room.
Broadcasters and media sites around the globe then used this for their TV and Video News. Below some broadcast figures (VOD uncounted).
We established and edited a specific IPTV channel for sponsors and other stakeholders. They got our very own IPTV box.
They could use this to stream the channel on their intranets, receptions or shops. And like Samsung that streamed the channel to all their screens in shopping malls, airports and train stations all over Portugal.
It’s not only about marketing. The Volvo Ocean Race have reasons for it’s tagline ”Life at the Extreme”. There is a very serious side of the race that you don’t see anything of and that I can’t tell you much about either. Crisis management and crisis communications is taken very seriously with solid processes in place. We practiced several times both before and during the race.
We activated the crisis plan eight times during the race. Please note that this does not mean there actually were eight crises. It only means we had eight different occasions were we followed the protocol.
One incident that few could have missed though is the Team Vestas Wind grounding. I can guarantee you that these were the most intense days and nights during my 20 years career. I will not tell you about all the work behind the scenes but the footage we got from our onboard reporter, Brian Carlin, is one of a kind:
Even a crisis can be turned into something good. In this case we were lucky none got seriously hurt or died. When the crew was safe we put unbelievable efforts to get the boat of the rock for environmental reasons, rebuild it and to document it all. Team Vestas Wind was on the start line again, only five months later, in Lisbon. See the movie about the crash and their comeback that we made for our spherical cinema in the Race Village:
Despite not starting in five of the nine offshore legs Team Vestas Wind and their sponsor got +€28 Million media value and their message about wind energy for sustainability got spread across the globe. An impressive achievement. As comparison Dongfeng Race Team that participated in all legs got the highest media value: +€65 Million.
The Onboard Reporters
The work of the Onboard Reporters (a.k.a OBR’s) is central to all communications of the race. Without them, we simply couldn’t tell the story of the teams while facing tremendously harsh conditions so many miles from land.
The OBRs need to be multi-talented. Filming, taking photos and writing. During nine months in the toughest conditions that is. And to succeed with their stories they also need to be diplomats and supporters for their crews. Still keeping their journalistic integrity. Most of them also had to cook all the food and to clean the boat and keep it dry. Imagine that, it’s just another day at the office:
By the way, a rather popular video with +814.000 organic views.
A sailing media machine
The Volvo Ocean 65s is built around communications. We used state-of-the-art video- and still cameras and computers to beam high definition footage & photos back to our race control over a satellite network for further distribution to external media, our app, IPTV, social channels and website. Live streams and live video calls as well.
All the fixed cameras can be remotely operated from the onboard reporters media station, or even from the Race Control, while the microphones ensures voice recording.
The cameras are rolling all the time but don’t save everything. The are two ”crash buttons” on each boat below and on deck. If any of the the buttons is pushed, it sends out a distress signal to Race Control and the cameras onboard starts to save the footage, going back four minutes, not to miss any of the action onboard. This is the reason why we have footage on Team Vestas Wind’s crashing on the reef. Brian Carlin pushed the button. Some of the footage we got from the Chinese gybes were automatically recorderd based on pre-set telemetry data; i.e radical change of heel angle.
For more insights in our technology enjoy Eric’s guidance:
The high production quality and innovative storytelling of the Volvo Ocean Race, make it a perfect fit for NBCSN’s programming lineup.
Jon Miller, President Programming, NBC Sports & NBSCN
The Volvo Ocean Race Museum
I also got the privilige to have the responsibilty for The Volvo Ocean Race Museum within my team. My director of the museum and her team have all reasons to be proud.
We increased the number of visitors with 81% compared to last year. 63.521 visitors enjoyed our museum that this spring got awarded a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
Among the activities: we brought an Volvo Ocean 70 for people to experience inside, installed a Volvo Ocean Race 4D simulator, created a new photo exhibition about 24 hours on board, let a TedX event take place at the museum and most of all welcomed all the schools – 14.000 kids – with open arms and guided tours:
The Race Village
We built our fantastic Race Village in 11 countries: Spain, South Africa, Abu Dhabi, China, New Zeeland, Brasil, USA, Portugal, France, The Netherlands and in Gothenburg.
- +2.4 Million people enjoyed the race village an increase of 12% compared to the previous race.
- +70.000 corporate guests, an increase of 221%, enjoyed the Race Village facilities.
We designed our boatyard to be open for the public. Here the audience could follow all the maintenance work in real time, i.e repairing sails or carbon parts.
We built a spheric cinema – The Dome – that could host 140 people.
On a running schedule we hosted an interactive game show and showed two different movies that we made specifically for this cinema. One was the ”Expect the unexpected” that you saw earlier in this post. ”Generation Extreme” was a movie that we made before the race started. We travelled around the globe to meet people from all generations of the race back to the very first Whitbread Around the World Race 1973. It’s a very strong 25 minute low key movie where they share their stories from the race. Both great and terrible. Maybe it will come online one day.
The Cross Section – A Volvo Ocean 65 cut in half
A full size half-model of the Volvo Ocean 65 with all the real details in place. People enjoyed climbing through the boat, to check out the bunks where the sailors sleep, sit by the media station and to try the work at different position on deck. Below you can move around to get an idea.
Try Sailing and The Academy
It’s a privilege to work for a brand that truly care about kids. In every race village we offered anyone to Try Sailing – 20.000 people took part.
Albatrosses are often regarded as the souls of lost sailors. The albatros in the photos above is our own mascot Wisdom. The kids favorite in all countries was Wisdom – walking around in the Race Village.
The Academy is for kids that are already into sailing and helps them develop their skills further. The kids inspired us to make this video:
We design many different towers for the race village. Wayfinding towers, portraits of sailors, promotion for the app, handwritten notes from every single sailor in the race and more. Here’s a gallery of some 11 meters high infographics we did:
In our museum shop, in the race village and online fans could (and still can) by branded merchandise. We doubled the merchandise sales compared to the last edition.
Sponsors built their pavilions to demonstrate their products and to interact with their clients. I.e. at Volvo Trucks one could operate excavators. Volvo Cars was letting you try self parking cars and of course to experience the brand new XC90 that premiered at the race start.
Speaking of cars. We branded both our cars and buses. These could be seen driving at all continents. Personally I love our branding of the bus.
We did some PR Stunts
To mention a few…
The Swedish Prince
My colleague Jon, were having an interview with the Swedish prince Carl Philip. I had a feeling the prince is like any of us – a cool guy that likes to have fun. I asked Jon to ask Carl Philip if he’d like to climb the mast to take a selfie. Jon asked:
And I sent a helicopter to shoot it:
All cred to Carl Philip that climbed the 30 meter mast while the boat was sailing. Media loved it. Just a few Swedish examples:
What he wrote is still a secret for the one of us that have seen the top of the mast. And no one more will see it since that mast is no more:
The Prince’s selfie in the mast started a trend of celebrities wanting to climb the mast for a selfie.
Here you see Miss World 2014 Rolene Strauss:
And Caroline Hjelt from Icona Pop, well not for a selfie but still a photo of her in the mast:
And media continued to love it across the globe.
Sail racing & free running – A crazy mashup?
Perfect, then let’s do it! We invited parkour athletes Jason Paul & Pavel ”Pasha” Petkuns to do some free running on our racing boats and in our beautiful race village in Newport, Rhode Island:
We helped Taylor Walker to arrange his proposal and this video was posted on his own Youtube account in an experiment to see what could be achieved through a grasroot channel VS using our own:
At every race starts the race teams could have guests on board that then jumped of the boat before taking of for the oceans. There were many celebrities and others that jumped. Some more spectacular than others. I personally love this photo of a US citizen jumping:
Except the innovative technology we used behind the scenes to make all this possible we also did two innovative public communications activities.
As the first major sport event we used Periscope to live stream directly from the athletes during the racing. Something that The New York Times among others wrote about.
We made one of the first ten 360 videos published on Youtube. To consume it you need to either use a Chrome browser or an Android phone. Best is of course to watch it with a pair of Oculus goggles:
When watching the movie you can move around to experience the scenes in 360 degrees. This is pretty cool and many believe this will be ”the next big thing”.
First we planned to film using specific 360 cameras but since they were stil so untested in rough condition we used a mount of many GoPro’s.
Swedish onboard reporter Anna-Lena Elled with a 360 mount on a helmet.
Getting ready for take off for some 360 aerials.
Just 3 more videos…
The fleet rounded Cape Horn and we got some amazing footage from the heli:
Having survived the cyclone Pam in New Zealand the fleet took of for some great sailing into the Southern Ocean. And we had our heli filming:
I’m a personal fan of the filming style GoPro have made possible. We co-operated with them in this race. Here’s a short video with some random GoPro footage:
This was just some of all the things we did. My team of +120 skilled individuals from many different countries:
Jon, Lizzie, Christina, Miguel, Maria, Carla, Rob, Flavio, Fabienne, Ben, Eva, Fabian, Shirley, Naivasha, Diana, Leon, Yvo, Mariana, Rick, Genny, Rowdy, Thijs, Dylan, Rhys, Pedro, Mark, Tom, Bianca, Corinna, Matt, Sam, Yann, Stefan, Amory, Francisco, Brian, Anna-Lena, Agathe, Jonathan, Andrew, Alistair, Maria, Elisenda, Marie, Nick, Sam, Matt, Shaie Ana, Rik, Frans, Carmen, Ainhoa, Nicola, Sarah, Franccois, Ali, Maria, Martin, Alvaro, Laura, Carla, Roberto, Carlos, Beatriz, Aciscio, José, Emilio, Jordi, Marion, Laura, Albano, Enrico, Alberto, Isabel, Joost, Richard, Yann, Marta, Warren, Jose, Richard, Marc, Edd, John, James, Chris, Eric, Tony, Dag, Bjarne, Shadier, Marcin, Fredrik, Frank, Sreelesh, Paul, Michael and all the rest of you. Thank you for all your great efforts working as or/with:
News & Media Direction, Port & Team Media, Media Relations Supervisors, Media Operations, Media Assistants, National Media Managers, Editorial Direction, Editorial Management, Editorial Coordination, Video & Live TV producers, Program Hosts, Video Editors, Project coordinators, Multimedia reporters, Watch Producers, Onboard Reporters, Writers, TV Directors, Assistant Producers, Production Managers, Location News Producers, TV News Distribution, Camera Operators, Librarians, Photography Management, In-House Photographer, Photo Assistant, Social Channel Management, Marketing Assistant, Museum Management, Creative Projects, Brand & Marketing Management, Graphic Design, Museum Coordination, Shop Coordination, Museum Maintenance, Museum IT, Ocean Race Club Management, Technology Direction, Online Management, Digital Project Assistant, Web Project Manager, Web Designer, Web Producer, App Development, System Management, System Administration, Race Management System Support, Telemetry Engineering, Network Management, IT Specialist, Network Support, Multimedia Manager, Multimedia Engineer, Sound Engineer, Virtual Eye Project Manager, Virtual Eye Engineer, Virtual Eye Operator, Port IT Management, IT Team Management, Network Engineering, System Administration, Ciniflex Operator, Helicopter Pilots and RIB Drivers.
And also a big thank you to all my wonderful colleagues within the event-, race village-, boatyard-, commercial- and operations teams.
We based all the content we created on a communication platform that we internally called ”The Human Edition”. A brainchild of Johan Ronnestam. First external event we did based on this concept was a conference in April 2014 for more than 300 stakeholders, of which some got dizzy trying out this 3D floor painting:
I’ve not written about the nice paper products we created for this race. The Magazine, The Race Program and The Race Book Dry Lenses. The later created and curated by Johan Ronnestam – we thought it was a nice way to wrap up this edition of therace. In this book one will enjoy a thorough selection of all the great photos from the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, including the full 24 hours exhibition that my team created for the museum.
So what about the value of €485M?
- TV Publicity value: €293M
- Print publicity value: €48.4M
- Economic impact in the Valencian community: €95.6M
- Economic impact in UAE: €43M
- Economic impact in New Zealand: €4.9M
- Digital publicity value uncounted for…
Total value: €485.000.000
We broke all previous records. Read or download the full Volvo Ocean Race 2014 – 16 report here.
Numbers, diagrams and tables are all borrowed from the report. It’s a nice read!
“You’re not the same man before & after this race”
A quote from skipper Charles Caudrelier. I could not agree more – it’s life changing in so many ways. I’m thankfull for being given this opportunity. Watch this movie created for the final awards night:
After having drafted a marketing & communications strategy for the next edition of the race I’ve moved back to Sweden. Together with a few others I’m now trying to do something that I’ve always wanted to try – to build a company from scratch.
I’m happy to assist both mature companies and startups as advisor in marketing, communications story telling, media distribution and with inspriational speaches. Don’t hesitate to contact me!