The silent boost

On a production facility ground somewhere in Austria, an e-racer approaches the start gate, ready for its close-up. The racing car is a beast, but a silent one, powered by the most advanced electric engine. What enfolds in the corporate video is a story of extremes and a metaphor for an entire industry.

Cut and flashback: earlier in 2018, global technology and capital goods group voestalpine announced that it will become the main sponsor of the European races of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, starting this December with the 2018/2019 season.

This reflects voestalpine's own race for technology leadership. Already, the automotive industry accounts for around a third of the group’s revenue. Constantly focusing on research and development, voestalpine is riding out in front in the growing e-mobility industry with ultra-high-strength body components, central safety devices for batteries, and intelligent product solutions for electric motors. This has earned the group co-operations with the most advanced automotive customers around the world. 

When the negotiations with FIA over the sponsoring package were successfully concluded, sponsorship activation came into focus. The main communication push started with a large press event, followed by an integrated cross-channel campaign.

Video was at the heart of the content preparation as a means to convey the emotion behind both the sports and voestalpine’s role in pushing e-mobility forward.

Building a storyline that forges memorable links

Within voestalpine’s Group Communications, brand communications takes care of sponsoring activities and communicating related actions, amongst other tasks. Consequently, brand communications – under the lead of Michael Sterrer-Ebenführer – was responsible for video production, in cooperation with the teams for media relations (team lead Christiane Ureutz) and for online and social media (team lead Stephanie Bauer).

One of the main requirements for the storyline was to show that the new sponsoring activity has a direct link to voestalpine’s core business. How to better visualise this connection than having an electric racing car rushing through a production site?

The futuristic e-racer guaranteed impressive images to begin with, and so did the plant grounds. In fact, the racing car as pars pro toto for the Formula E respectively the production site in Linz for the voestalpine Group allegorise innovation and change. Motorsport is no longer about roaring engines, petrol and horsepower, but about sustainability and smart energy management. And the buisness of voestalpine is no longer about steel manufacturing, but about future-oriented technology solutions based on the group’s combination of materials and processing expertise, supporting alternative approaches to mobility, such as e-mobility.

"Motorsport is no longer about roaring engines, petrol and horsepower, but about sustainability and smart energy management."

This core message was taken up again in further stakeholder communications. For example, a model of an electro motor visualising the electrical steel manufactured by the group was showcased together with the e-racer at the press conference kicking-off the communication around the Formula E sponsorship.

The motor model then travelled to tradeshows and other customer events, coupled with the video linking back to the joint project with the Formula E.

Corporate video production,  racing-style

The storyline itself was simple. Starting with an exciting racing scene straight from a Formula E street course, one of the electric racing cars leaves the race track. It takes a (virtual) short cut through our production facility ground, mastering a few roadblocks with the help of the workforce, to finally succeed to be one step ahead – the company’s main maxim.

The video shooting presented the Brand Communications team with one major challenge. While the racing car should move through the plant right during work hours, production must not be interrupted or disturbed. Careful planning resulted in four days of shooting.

A video crew specialising in vehicle staging, known as the masterminds behind action television series such as Cobra 11, was hired to capture and convey a sense of racing atmosphere against the backdrop of coils, metal processing machinery and giant cranes.

Essential success factors: teamwork within the crew

Several employees were invited to star in the video – from forklift drivers trying to catch up with the racing car, to surprised foremen at the control stand, and a cheering crowd of onlookers. Enthusiasm about the unusual task and pride in being part of this innovative project are clearly seen in the final video.

"Tell your story in a way that is close to your core business."

For example, the platform to lift the car over an obstacle within the plant was custom-designed and constructed by one of voestalpine project team for the purpose of the video shoot only. The making-of version of the video served the double purpose of providing a glimpse behind the scenes as well as involving even more employees, making them an active part of not only the video but the entire sponsoring project.

Awareness results on track: close to 300,000 views on YouTube

The success of the video justified the effort: television stations in over 15 countries aired parts of the footage. In addition to earned media, sharing the video via social channels such as Facebook brought almost another 500,000 views. On YouTube, the hero video has achieved over 280,000 views so far – and still counting, considering the video is continuously being used for different communication purposes.

With Formula E season 5 about to kick off, there will be a new boost for the video – albeit a silent one.

Five tips on making a successful corporate video

  1. Lay out a red thread: It is hardly worth mentioning that a good storyline is mandatory. But also think about linking your corporate video to your business goals and the corporate vision. If you find that red thread, you will be able to use the video for many more occasions – from trade shows and customers events to stakeholder communication or employer branding purposes.
  2. Know your audience: What does your audience look like and what do they expect? Apart from shaping the story accordingly (remember to bait the hook to suit the fish, not the fisherman), start thinking about distribution channels early. For example, if you aim at pitching footage to broadcast channels, your approach to quality and video length will have to be slightly different than if your main focus is selected social channels.
  3. Stay close to your core business: Tell your story in a way that is close to your core business – like shooting on the shop floor. The connection will ensure authenticity. Also, be professional but not too serious. A healthy sense of humour, spiced with a bit of self-irony, will make the video even more engaging.
  4. Make your employees part of the story: Involve your employees in the story. In this way, you kill two birds with one stone: employees identify with the project and ideally support it. At the same time, it will make the story more authentic.
  5. Find advocates and ambassadors: Turn back to your employees once the corporate video is done. They are your most important advocates. Imagine the multiplying effect if each one of them share the video within their social networks. Equally, pick a few social media-savvy ambassadors to seed the video professionally. Think ‘red thread’ again: make sure there is a reasonable connection between your business and the ambassadors regarding the subject of your video.

Peter Felsbach

In November, Peter Felsbach took over the role of Group press spokesman for voestalpine AG in November 2011. He is now the Group's central contact for national and international media for communications related to the voestalpine Group. In his previous position as unit leader and senior consultant at a Vienna-based public relations agency, Peter was in charge of the strategic communications of various companies, institutions and public authorities. Before that, he spent several years as head of company communications in eight countries for the business law firm, CHSH. From 2004 to 2006, he shared responsibility for corporate communications and investor relations at the Superfund Investment Group.