Vayner Media, UEG
Pitch the future
Over the past 35 years Shell has facilitated one of the world’s leading student engineering competitions; The Shell Eco-marathon (SEM). This global programme brings together Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) students from across the globe to design, build and test drive some of the world’s most energy-efficient vehicles. Since its inception over 10,000 students, representing 700 different universities across 52 countries, have taken on the challenge of reimagining an energy efficient mobility future.
Imagine Formula 1 meets global science fair, championing innovative thinking. The Shell Eco-marathon has historically hinged on physical race weekends, hosted in major global cities such as London, Rotterdam, Singapore and Detroit. The events themselves provide a rich content opportunity, engage local communities and amplify ‘Make The Future’ Shell’s communications around creating a more sustainable, renewable, energy-rich, lower carbon future. Unsurprisingly, the extraordinary events of 2020 put a halt to Shell’s flagship student programme, cancelling all Global in-person events.
Our challenge was to emulate the engagement and enthusiasm generated by the physical Eco-marathon, virtually.
We identified three key factors that would impact the success of the virtual programme; First, the idea needed to excite the students. The strength of the programme is directly related to the voluntary participation of student teams. Without the students, there is no Eco-marathon. Second, for true global reach we would need local relevance. The idea needed to be borderless and universally understood. Third, whilst student led, the content also needed to be interesting to a far broader group of people; Shell’s ‘Make The Future’ communications ultimately seek to change or enhance the perception of the brand among all potential customers and stakeholders.
The Creative Solution
Our target audience was divided into STEM students and a broader ‘Energy Engaged Customer’ (EEC) audience – 18-54 years old, curious, open-minded and outward-looking individuals who are also potential customers of Shell’s products and services.
Our mission was to recruit, engage and ultimately improve perception of the Shell brand.
To deliver on this mission, we would create ‘Pitch The Future’, a global 6 week virtual competition challenging STEM students to solve real life energy challenges;
- Decarbonising the home with Shell Energy; Develop a concept that helps reduce Co2 emissions in the home without impeding people’s everyday comfort.
- Tracking and Reducing Emissions with Microsoft; Design an inclusive system prototype to track and help reduce emissions of passenger cars.
- Decarbonising Road Freight with Shell Lubricants; Develop a concept that helps make deliveries more efficient without compromising customer expectations.
- Electric mobility and long-distance travel with Shell Recharge; Plan a concept all electric journey (UK – RU, TH -CN or BR – CAN) with minimal stops and optimal battery range.
After selecting an energy challenge, teams were invited to share their ideas, with the goal of live-pitching their innovations to a panel of real-world industry experts.
The evaluation of the final ideas was shared with the broader public, via a live voting system; the public vote, combined with the scores of the expert panel, determined which teams would be crowned the winners of ‘Pitch The Future’.
The panel was comprised of senior figures from the world of energy, education, technology and mobility, including:
Alex Robart; Global Energy Strategy Lead, Microsoft
Mark Andrews; Strategic Development Manager – Higher Education, Adobe
Colin Crooks; CEO, Shell Energy
Mansi Tripathy; Vice President Commercial Lubricants, Shell
Tommaso Volpe; Global Motorsport Director, Nissan/Infinity
Joerg Wienke; Vice President Global Retail Marketing, Shell
The Media/Content Amplification Solution
To capture the attention of our students, we turned to popular YouTuber and inventor Colin Furze (11m subscribers, >1.3 billion views), alongside author and influencer Astronaut Abby to host the Pitch The Future program, challenge the students and even take part themselves. Flighting our communications between ‘recruit’ and ‘engage’ phases allowed us to build momentum, as teams entered to subsequently speak to a vast audience once the program matured.
Using social channels (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat), we focused on engaging formats built for video consumption and interaction (Stories, Photo Grids, Gifs), targeted STEM students and encouraging participation in the program.
To reach the broader Energy Engaged Customer audience, we focused on contextually relevant environments (YouTube, LinkedIn, Search) to promote video where users spend longer with content, to help enhance the perception of the Shell brand. Our influencers boosted ‘Pitch the Future’ on their own channels, whilst creating bespoke edits to further broaden the reach of the program.
In total, over 300 pieces of unique content were produced, spanning 13 key Shell markets, in 3 languages, covering the entire student journey from introducing the challenges to announcing the winners and showcasing highlights from the live pitches.
‘Pitch The Future’ exceeded our own very high expectations. In the midst of an incredibly challenging global situation, we attracted bright young minds from over 35 countries to participate in the Pitch The Future programme, with an incredible 178 teams sharing their innovative ideas to address real-word energy challenges.
The content generated from the Pitch The Future campaign delivered almost 1 BILLION impressions, 127 million views, and over 66 million engagements with our audience liking, commenting and swiping in approval. The Shell-branded content developed with Colin Furze actually outperformed Colin’s own organic content benchmarks, achieving 59% more interactions than the norm for posts on Colin’s owned channels.
Our YouTube activity achieved view-through rates 53% higher than industry benchmarks, and an impressive 31.2 million views, evidencing broader interest in the ‘Pitch The Future’ programme and innovations well beyond the STEM student community.
Last but certainly not least, 13 amazing ideas to address real world energy challenges were shortlisted giving the lucky students an opportunity to live-pitch their innovations to industry leaders from Shell, Microsoft, Nissan, Adobe and WPP. The winners reflected the global coverage of the programme, with teams from Brazil, Turkey, India and the Philippines awarded cash prizes, Adobe creative subscriptions and a place in history as inaugural Pitch the Future champions!