Brandwatch: Renault UK

French car manufacturer Renault has been putting the 'va va voom' into the motor industry since engineering enthusiast Louis Renault founded the company in 1899. Thanks to its alliance with Nissan, it is currently one of the largest auto firms in the world and takes pride in its dedicated motorsport arm, Renaultsport.

Renault's 1990s advertising campaigns for its Clio range, featuring 'Nicole' and 'Papa', are widely considered to be among the most popular car advertisements ever made, so popular in fact that in 1996 one survey found Nicole was recognised by more Britons than the then Prime Minister John Major.

In addition to its above-the-line promotions, events have always been an important part of Renault's marketing mix, falling into four categories: public events, exhibitions, product launches and customer events.

"Each offers a different level of targeting, from a mass audience to a smaller more specific target group," explains UK brand communications manager Mark Waller.

Public Events

Each year Waller and his team are involved in organising the second-largest motorsport event in the UK behind the F1 Grand Prix - the World Series by Renault. The free motorsport festival tours countries such as Spain, France and Germany providing action-packed racing, high-speed demonstrations and attractions for a wide audience.

The UK leg, held at Silverstone in June 2008, attracted more than 110,000 people and marked the event's first outing at the home of British Grand Prix, having previously been held at Donnington Park. It gave UK motorsport fans a rare opportunity to see an F1 car in action. Open access to the paddock also allowed them to get up close to the ING Renault F1 Team R27 car, which had raced during the 2007 Formula One World Championship, and they had the opportunity to meet driver F1 test driver Romain Grosjean.

Off-track, the entertainment continued with multi-screen F1 simulators inviting potential stars of the future to race on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, along with a pit-stop challenge allowing fans to test their reflexes, and various Renault and Renaultsport road cars.


When it comes to showcasing vehicles, Renault divides its focus between large-scale industry events, at which it can exhibit entire ranges to a varied audience, and smaller shows where it can promote a more targeted selection of cars to a niche audience.

"We try to be as interesting and as engaging as possible to whatever target group we are aiming for," says Waller. "Every event represents our brand and the experience we give visitors must reflect this in a positive way."

At 2008's British International Motor Show, held at Excel London, Renault focused on promoting its Eco2 range, and on press day brought in Renault Eco2 brand ambassador Dame Ellen MacArthur to explain its stance on corporate social responsibility.

Visitors had a sneak preview of concept versions of both the new Megane Coupe and Laguna Coupe, as well as an F1 car and Renaultsport versions of the Twingo, Clio and Megane. A Renaultsport competition was held on the stand, with the winner entered into a European draw for a place at the Renault World Series in Barcelona.

In addition to the Motor Show, Renault has sponsored the BBC Gardeners' World Live exhibition for the past five years. For 2008's outing at the NEC in Birmingham, the brand took two separate stands and sponsored the show's central eco feature, on which it displayed its range of Eco2 cars. It also used video to illustrate the brand's eco credentials, which ranged from the manufacturing process in the factories and the low emissions on the road, through to the recyclability of the vehicles at the end of their life.

"We like people to leave our events with a good feeling about the company, and with the feeling that they have learned something positive about us they didn't know before," explains Waller.

Product launches

The majority of Renault's product launches are put together by staff at the head office in Paris, and generally take place on the Continent. However, some of the brand's smaller launches are held in the UK.

The last notable event was for the UK debut of the new Megane and Laguna Coupes in October 2008, which were revealed at the French Chamber of Commerce Business Club cocktail party, fresh from their world unveilings at the Paris Motor Show. More than 150 members and dignitaries enjoyed an evening sponsored by Renault UK at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.

In April 2005, the UK press office organised an intimate event for 100 motoring journalists. Guests were invited for dinner in the Egyptian Room at Goodwood House, to which they were chauffeur-driven in Renault Grand Espaces. Next day, they were able to drive the newest additions to the Renault range on designated test routes in Sussex.

When not behind the wheel, guests could take to the sky as a passenger in one of two 1945 Renault-powered Stampe SV4 bi-planes, before being given the opportunity to take the controls of a new Piper training aircraft for a 30-minute trial session with Goodwood Flying School.

Customer events

In the past, Renault has held a number of customer events allowing both existing and potential customers to gain a more hands-on experience of the brand than they would have by simply visiting the showroom.

In 2007, it hired event agency TRO to organise a Summer Ride and Drive campaign, which ran from April until August. Existing and prospective customers were invited to spend a day at one of 18 family-orientated venues, including the National Motor Museum in Brockenhurst, and Stoneyhurst College in Bolton, where they saw the entire Renault range and were able to test-drive the models.

TRO created a hospitality area called Renault Village, which incorporated temporary structures, catering areas and the Renault Safety Zone. A kids' area featured Tales from the Glovebox, which involved teachers from support network the National Schools Partnership reading stories at set times.

With such a variety of events to contend with, it is no surprise Waller already has 2009's event programme under control, although he anticipates that the coming year is likely to be quite different from others.

"The events we do over the next year will have to work harder for us," he insists. "They will have to be carefully selected and meticulously planned to make the very most out of every minute."

"Keeping costs to a bare minimum will be essential, and making sure suppliers offer us the best value for money will be an even stronger focus than usual," he adds.

As for any brand, this could mean cutting back on some events.

"Events, as with all activities, are scaled back when belts have to be tightened," concludes Waller.

"It's a competitive market out there and we want to make sure we maximise every opportunity that is offered to us."

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