Tom Murphy – Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy blogging about PR and other things since 2002…

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Nothing beats a different perspective on your world

June 23rd, 2012 · 1 Comment · Public Relations

I’m a big believer that whenever you get the chance to look at how PR and Marketing is executed in a different industry you should jump at it. I’ve always enjoyed viewing my profession from different perspectives, you always come away with some new ideas. 

Last weekend I had the incredible opportunity to travel to France for the 24 Heures Du Mans, one of the world’s most famous motor races. I was there to support my brother’s team who were having their first crack at this toughest of all endurance events. While I was there I made it my business to meet and swop war stories with a number of people who spend their working lives in motorsport PR and Marketing.

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From a marketing perspective the event had two major manufacturers competing to own Le Mans and each took a different approach – though both clearly spent a lot of budget.

On the one hand you had Audi, whose strategy appeared to be very focused with incredibly sophisticated hospitality facilities around the track (and cars on display) while relying on the dominance of their cars (which finished 1, 2 & 3) to drive excitement and media coverage.

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P1050629   On the other hand you had Nissan taking a different approach (at least it seemed that way to me). They were everywhere at the event and seemed to be targeting consumers and businesses in equal measure. From a racing perspective they were providing engines to a range of different teams and had probably the biggest media draw outside the race itself with the Nissan Delta Wing which drove global media coverage before, during and after the race.

It was hard to call the winner, but perhaps trackside it was Nissan.

At the other end of the spectrum was my brother’s team – Murphy Prototypes. Established earlier this year, working on a fraction (if even) of a budget, they’ve focused on PR and social media to build awareness and, albeit on a tiny scale compared to the industry titans, they’ve made outstanding progress.


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After the car retired nearly 14 hours into the race – and after leading their class for nearly 3 hours and running as high as 6th overall – I took a walk around the track at about 5am and the number of fans (there are over 350,000 spectators each day over the weekend, many camping around the circuit) wearing Murphy Prototypes merchandise was astonishing.

They’ve started using Facebook and Twitter to engage fans (Emma Buxton was tirelessly driving PR and social media all weekend) and the level of engagement they’re getting is incredible.

One of my favorite moments over the weekend was when Massimo Favini appeared in the paddock. Massimo connected with the team on Facebook and was sent a team cap.  When he was recently climbing in Italy he took his cap with him and sent on a shot from the summit.   image

 

The team worked incredibly hard during the week of Le Mans to give the fans as much access as they could and it was clearly appreciated.

Like other industries, motorsport is increasingly using social media for engagement and sharing news and information, but media (print, online and broadcast) and traditional marketing remain front and center.

One thing I did notice was the thoroughness and creativity in preparation and execution across the marketing and PR activities at the venue. 

They’ve thought of everything from having their own photographers bringing the latest photos from around the track to the media center (and driving media photographers to any part of the track where there’s an incident), to creating subtle photo opportunities – such as the parking spot for the Delta Wing – everywhere.  

 

From a professional perspective, the most illuminating part of the event (beyond the racing) was the opportunity to meet and talk with a number of motorsport PR and marketing folks.  There were many interesting discussions about the changes they’re seeing in their sport, the emergence of social media and the differences between an endurance event like Le Mans and the high church of motorsport, Formula 1. Where Formula 1 is about access, exclusivity and control, endurance racing is about creating a bond between the teams and the fans, giving them better access and insight, perhaps how Formula 1 was in the 80s and 90s – with more marketing.

The 24 Heures Du Mans is an incredible experience. I highly recommend it and I’ll be back.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Cameron

    It is crazy how much public relations are involved in motor sports from motocross and NASCAR to Le Mans. Public relations people are there to help the drivers communicate and also to promote businesses and sponsors.

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