James Barrett caught up with Land Rover at the National Boat Show
Some associations seem to make perfect sense to everyone. Jelly and ice cream go together like bees and honey. Where would Tom be without Jerry? And there can’t be many people who wouldn’t associate the name Pele with the yellow and blue of Brazil.
However, some partnerships are doomed to fail, even if it’s through simple incompatibility. The debacle involving Ashley and Cheryl Cole’s marriage being a recent example where two forces came together, but now consistently fall apart.
It’s the same for those of us in the exhibiting world. Who would repeatedly exhibit at, or sponsor, a show where the response has been less then favourable? The conclusion would be drawn pretty quickly to up sticks and try a different exhibition or, even worse, give up exhibiting altogether. Once bitten; twice shy, as the saying goes.
So, if you were one of the 100,000 or so people that attended the National Boat Show at London Excel in January, excited to see the new cruise liners and seafaring attire, you may have thought it strange that a car manufacturer had a heavy presence within the halls.
However, Land Rover was a main sponsor at this year’s show. What benefits did it gain from being part of a nautical show? Was it to unveil an underwater car à la James Bond? Actually, it was for simpler reasons than that.
"What first attracted Land Rover to the National Boat Show was the quality of visitor that attends the show. It’s as simple as that," says events manager, Sam Adams. "We consider ourselves a premium brand that can sit comfortably alongside the luxury yachting companies of Sunseeker and Fairline."
The name of the game for Land Rover was to create brand awareness to a key demographical audience and to generate leads for two of its luxury Range Rover vehicles, both of which were on display at the show.
With that in mind, Adams and his team set about building bridges with the two prestigious boating companies. Situated in the South Hall, Land Rover’s stand was positioned by both Sunseeker’s and Fairline’s, allowing for some interesting partnerships to be built.
"We contacted both of them and arranged brand partnerships. This essentially meant we could chauffeur VIP customers, who were going to be treated to hospitality on the Fairline and Sunseeker stands, to and from the show," says Adams.
Land Rover branding was included on the yachting company stands as part of the deal, as well as a pre-selected number of its own VIP visitors being offered the hospitality that a Sunseeker Champagne Bar and the Fairline team each provided.
For any exhibitor looking to sponsor a show, this shows a willingness to grasp that something extra. Don’t be restricted to the package you get from the organisers; add more value to your presence.
The sponsorship package for Land Rover also included brand logos on the official Boat Show website and every show guide that was handed out, meaning recognition and visibility was kept constant before, during and after the exhibition.
Land Rover set about showcasing vehicles that it thought would appeal to boat enthusiasts. The two models, the Range Rover Autobiography and the Range Rover Sport Autobiography, were on the stand for visitors to see and sit in. "The vehicles fitted the theme of luxury and craftsmanship, while offering solutions in regards to ferrying boating equipment and paraphernalia from home to the dock," says Adams.
As Land Rover is an experienced exhibitor at many different types of exhibitions, the stand is constantly adapted to suit each one. Adams stresses the importance of having a reliable relationship with an event agency, ensuring continuity and trust are already in place at the pre-planning stage.
In terms of on-stand staffing, Land Rover ensures the quality of its representatives is always high.
In total, Adams had eight brand ambassadors at the show, who shared responsibility for taking sales, collating leads and being part of the VIP chauffeuring. "Every one of our stand staff has worked for, or with, the Land Rover brand for between five and 10 years," he says.
"Training is ongoing and product updates are communicated directly from Land Rover product managers to the brand ambassadors on a regular basis," he adds. "We want our representatives to be fully conversant with our current products, and able to handle any public enquiry."
Two weeks before any exhibiting attendance, National Boat Show being no exception, chosen ambassadors receive a written brief on that exhibition or show and what is to be expected. Product managers also give a detailed brief about the exhibits and the show audience before the exhibition opens, leaving nothing to chance when it comes to public relations.
One way Land Rover enticed visitors onto the stand was to run a competition. "We had 20 places to be won on an adventure holiday," explains Adams. The prize, and allowing visitors’ contact details to be captured, was a four-day break in Catalonia, a region of Spain. The winners were able to drive five of Land Rover’s products on and off-road throughout the area.
"This proved a successful draw to visitors, who entered in great numbers," adds Adams. "The experiences also mean they can try the products first-hand and get a real feel for driving a Land Rover vehicle."
The overall experience showed that Land Rover achieved around 15 per cent more than a specific target on lead generation. "As with any exhibitor, we want to increase brand awareness and look to complete sales, either during or after an event. To be 15 per cent higher than our target of leads taken from the boat Show is fantastic," says Adams.
Land Rover has said it’ll be back at the National Boat Show again in 2011, but what would they do differently next time round?
"Well, nothing would change inherently," says Adams. "But, we are thinking about extending our exhibiting presence across both the North and South halls in 2011."
One reason for this is a chance to bring the brand to life and have active displays at the show. Some readers may have seen this at car exhibitions, where Land Rover has cars ready to be driven around a small assault course.
So, what looked at first glance to be a completely odd show for Land Rover proves that thinking a bit outside of the box can pay dividends. By ensuring the exhibition delivered on certain criteria and backing that faith up with a tight, knowledgeable show team, Land Rover showcased its products to a relevant audience.
And maybe one day an underwater car might become the star attraction of Land Rover’s exhibiting presence at the National Boat Show and bridge that gap completely.