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Michelin has been one of the world’s leading tire manufacturers for over 120 years, with a foothold in over 170 countries. Like many major brands today, Michelin grasped the importance of adapting to consumers’ changing habits and forging stronger ties with customers, incorporating influence marketing into its communication strategy early on.
In August 2019, Michelin signed a partnership with Gran Turismo Sport and Polyphony Digital (the studio behind the Gran Turismo franchise). Michelin saw this partnership as an opportunity to raise brand awareness on a global level, while defining the space for the brand in the growing eSports sector.
As the communications team was preparing to launch various major campaigns around motorsport in early 2020, Michelin was forced to slam on the brakes. The Covid-19 pandemic brought the world screeching to a halt with many nations implementing shelter-in-place policies. With events and travel shutting down, a live motor race with its influencers was no longer possible.
As a result of the health crisis and the resulting somber atmosphere, Michelin, like many organizations, momentarily put its marketing and communications campaigns on hold. It was important to the brand to avoid self-promotion, reflect on the impact to society and ensure they could best play an appropriate role.
“All our influencers and professional drivers found themselves stuck at home with time on their hands. They were no longer able to drive their sports or racing cars, or create content for social media as they were used to doing. That’s why our global team came up with the idea of creating a championship just for influencers at the start of lockdown.”
— Fabio Merone, Influencer Manager, Michelin Italy.
Michelin’s global communications team decided that if they couldn’t bring their influencers to the track, they would bring the track to their influencers and ambassadors by offering them a new experience: participation in a fun, social racing forum from the comfort of their own homes via Gran Turismo Sport on PlayStation 4.
The primary goal for this interactive campaign was to bring together two very different communities: professional race car drivers and seasoned car enthusiasts and gamers. This was the first time there would be given the opportunity to compete against each other using virtual Michelin tires.
In total, 21 automotive influencers from a range of different backgrounds and professional drivers responded to the invitation, all based in the markets where the Michelin team has developed strong influencer marketing relationships, including Sweden, Turkey, the UK, and Italy.
Among the participants were gamers, racing drivers and influencers who had varying experience on Gran Turismo Sport, such as the English racing driver Oliver James Webb. The idea was to have these different influential profiles mingle, bringing them together around their shared passion to create an unprecedented competition experience in Gran Turismo with Michelin.
“Using Traackr reassured us in our choice of the influencers we wanted to work with and allowed us to monitor content created. We knew ahead of time that this would be essential to ensuring the campaign would grow and be a success.”
— Mark Higginson, UK CRM & Digital Marketing Manager, Michelin
Michelin’s results for this campaign were incredible. The 21 influencers active over the 4 week period achieved the following results:
As the competition unfolded, the participants lost no time in sharing their experiences on social media. On average, the influencers published 10 posts per day mentioning the tournament on their social media channels, mostly on Instagram and YouTube. This content triggered an extremely high organic engagement rate at very low cost.
Traackr was used to monitor every aspect of the campaign, in every market where the influencers were based. In that way, the brand could track every influencer mention as well as the engagement and impact generated during the campaign.
By way of comparison, during the Goodwood Festival Of Speed 2019 (Michelin’s reference audience engagement event), 33 influencers around the world published 606event items for a total of 303,000 interactions. The Michelin Gran Turismo Sport activation saw a 55% increase in engagements per influencer!
The competition to customize a car with a Michelin design was another excellent initiative that boosted the brand’s image. The participants made creative Michelin branded cars. The winner was Swedish influencer @925motor who came up with several ultra-impressive designs.
Beyond the quantifiable impact, the campaign resulted in deepening the relationships between the brand and its influencers, as well as, among the participants themselves. New friendships were forged and live on within the WhatsApp group. They still talk about the game and invite each other to take part in competitions without any involvement from Michelin.
By making smart choices regarding the influencers for this campaign, Michelin’s communications teams were able to devote more time to developing relationships with their influencers, thereby building a truly organic branding campaign.
“The camaraderie between participants and the competitive spirit that built up during the campaign were incredible. We created something entirely unexpected. And that meant excellent results for Michelin at practically zero cost,”
— Mark Higginson, UK CRM & Digital Marketing Manager, Michelin
Michelin succeeded in building relationships with its influencers by creating a space for creative experiences, despite a challenging global situation. By focusing on identifying the right influencers and laying the groundwork for the experience, Michelin was able to step aside and let their influencers run the show without guidance or scripted branded requirements. This is a fantastic illustration of how a brand can and should support its partners, even when times are hard, and how impactful relationships can be for generating brand awareness.
The communications team was delighted to see the enthusiasm and intense competitive spirit that built up during this campaign. It couldn’t have worked out better, and the brand and team are already planning a new tournament and examining the possibility of making it an annual event.
“What really stood out for me during this activation was how Traackr supported us at a local level, when looking at historic brand activations, and also how Traackr supported the entire global team in ensuring the right metrics, tracking and learnings were in place to see straight away the success of the activation. It shows the depth of Traackr as more than ‘just a search tool’. The platform provides our KPIs and simplifies the management of a cross border, multi time zone activation by reducing the workload on the local teams to track data.”
— James Dimmock, Global Influencer & New Touchpoint Manager, Michelin.