Valvoline Instant Oil Change “Famous Cars Roadshow”
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Valvoline Instant Oil Change “Famous Cars Roadshow”

Entering its 15th year of business and preparing to celebrate such milestones as opening its 700th service center and serving 36 states, Valvoline Instant Oil Change (VIOC) was primed to execute its first-ever, large-scale consumer public relations campaign.

Paul Holmes

Entering its 15th year of business and preparing to celebrate such milestones as opening its 700th service center and serving 36 states, Valvoline Instant Oil Change (VIOC) was primed to execute its first-ever, large-scale consumer public relations campaign. The Lexington, Ky.-based automotive services provider presented its PR agency, Nichol & Company, with this task. The agency was called upon to design a campaign that would not only increase brand awareness and sales in key markets, but also epitomize VIOC’s slogan, “Cars. We Know ‘Em. We Love ‘Em.” The agency was also asked to tie in with the company’s core values by integrating a worthy cause with which the company could possibly establish a long-term relationship.
The objectives were to increase VIOC brand awareness in key VIOC markets; to drive consumer traffic into VIOC service centers; and to support VIOC’s core values by positioning the company as a community-minded organization.
 To select famous vehicles that would appeal to VIOC’s target audience, Nichol & Company compiled a list of noteworthy vehicles from TV and film; conducted interviews with car collectors and VIOC corporate and store-level personnel; and obtained information via the Internet about each vehicle, including the year the TV show/film aired, its target audience and the current appeal of each vehicle.
The agency then omitted cars determined not to appeal to VIOC’s core customers or the media, as well as those for which the authentic vehicle was unavailable. To reach the final selection of vehicles for the exhibit, Nichol & Company evaluated several combinations of vehicles that would appeal to a wide range of personalities and that could fit on one semi-truck, which would transport the collection from city to city.
To find a charity that shares the same values as VIOC and whose work reaches the communities that VIOC serves, Nichol & Company again used the Internet to compile a list of possible organizations. The agency then conducted interviews with representatives from each charity to learn more about how each works and discuss how VIOC might partner with them.
Finally, Nichol & Company selected Charity Cars, Inc. as the Famous Cars Roadshow charity partner because: the organization has a strong tie-in to cars; Charity Cars is nationally known, and has attracted widespread national media in the past; its work reaches each state and therefore has a valid presence/purpose in each of the markets the Roadshow visits; and VIOC would be the organization’s sole corporate sponsor.
Nichol & Company worked with marketing managers in each of VIOC’s five corporate regions to select markets and service centers that the Famous Cars Roadshow would visit based on the following: size of media market; proximity to media outlets; accessibility from main roads; presentation to passing traffic; service center aesthetics; and parking lot size. The agency then charted the Roadshow’s route based on: mileage between each market; climate conditions in each location during the three-month tour; and VIOC’s desire to end the tour in conjunction with its annual company-wide meeting scheduled to be held in Kentucky in late October.
To give the campaign a life and brand identity of its own while also promoting widespread awareness of VIOC, the agency worked with a graphic artist to design a logo specifically for the Famous Cars Roadshow that incorporated the VIOC corporate logo.
Once the vehicle list for the exhibit was finalized, Nichol & Company worked with Barris Productions, the premier provider of custom vehicles for the entertainment industry, to arrange and lease the collection of vehicles for the traveling exhibit.
The agency also contracted a 53-ft long semi-truck on which the exhibit would travel, and arranged for the truck to be custom-designed to display the Famous Cars Roadshow logo for added brand awareness as the exhibit traveled from city to city.
Nichol & Company established and coordinated all logistics for the affiliation with Charity Cars. For this program, VIOC pledged $20K to Charity Cars, which the agency promoted via media as a $10 donation for each oil change performed at the service center while the Famous Cars display was on-site.
The agency prepared and conducted media training sessions for 14 VIOC corporate and service center employees who would act as media spokespeople during the 10-city tour, Charity Cars Spokesperson Jim Gangitano and launch spokesperson/celebrity Tom Wopat (formerly “Luke Duke” on The Dukes of Hazzard).
To establish excitement about the exhibit coming to each town, Nichol & Company designed T-shirts featuring the Famous Cars Roadshow logo for employees at VIOC service centers to wear during the weeks leading up to the exhibit’s appearance in their market, and while the exhibit was on-site.
The Famous Cars Roadshow launched on August 1, 2002, in New York City, with a live appearance on the Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” which featured VIOC VP of Operations K.C. Bruch, Charity Cars Spokesperson Jim Gangitano, and of course, the famous cars. This was followed by a b-roll shoot outside Planet Hollywood in New York’s Times Square, for which the agency hired Tom Wopat for added “star” appeal.
After its launch, the exhibit set out on a 10-city tour of select target markets where VIOC has service centers. During each service center stop, Nichol & Company staged a three-day, weekend-long consumer event, complete with free food and refreshments and instant photos of customers with their favorite famous cars in complimentary specially designed Roadshow picture frames. Charity Cars, Inc. was also invited to participate in each event by having local representatives on-hand and distributing literature about the organization.
Nichol & Company disseminated the b-roll newsfeed produced during the launch event via national satellite on August 1, 2002. The agency also disseminated a press release announcing the tour, as well as photos, to national automotive publications and online outlets, and conducted aggressive follow up.
The heart of this program was local media outreach in the target markets to which the Famous Cars Roadshow traveled. The agency prepared and disseminated customized press materials in advance of the Roadshow’s stop in each market, and pursued local media with aggressive pitching efforts. The VIOC account team pitched local TV morning shows for weeks leading up to each event, with the goal of landing pre-scheduled live segments in each market, and aggressively pursued daily and weekly newspapers to run stories about each event in advance of and following the event.
The Valvoline Instant Oil Famous Cars Roadshow netted 115 TV segments on 63 stations in 40 markets, totaling 2 ½ hours of air-time, in addition to more than 65 print stories. Nearly each story mentions VIOC’s efforts for Charity Cars. Media results break down as follows:
The B-Roll Newsfeed generated 60 airings (ranging from 30 to 90 seconds each) on 40 stations in 33 markets across the country, including major markets such as Los Angeles, Detroit, Seattle, Miami, St. Louis and Nashville.
After its debut on the Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends, the VIOC Famous Cars Roadshow garnered extensive coverage in the 10 markets it traveled to, netting 55 segments (ranging from 20 seconds to more than five minutes each) on 27 local stations.
To date, more than 65 stories generating more than 12 million media impressions have appeared in newspapers such as The Star Tribune (St. Paul/Minneapolis), The Columbus Dispatch, The Toledo Blade, The Lansing State Journal, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), St. Louis-Post Dispatch, The Dallas Morning News, The Indianapolis Star and The Louisville Courier-Journal, as well in consumer and trade automotive magazines.
As a result of this media coverage, coupled with word-of-mouth, each local event has been attended by an average of 1,000 consumers. Nichol & Company based this estimate on the number of photos/picture frames disseminated as well as the quantity of refreshments (e.g., soft drinks, donuts, hotdogs, hamburgers) served at each location. In addition, store managers have also reported increases in oil change sales between 15 and 25 percent on days when the Roadshow exhibit was on-site at VIOC service centers.
In addition, VIOC has continued its relationship with Charity Cars. The first family to benefit from this alliance and the Famous Cars Roadshow proceeds received a refurbished 1996 Chevy Tahoe on November 14 from VIOC and Charity Cars. The donation was staged at the Toledo, Ohio, service center where the Roadshow made an appearance and was covered by the same local media that covered the Roadshow event three months prior.
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