To mark the re-launch of Virgin Radio this year, Wireless Group’s in-house PR team partnered up with Virgin Trains to transform a Manchester to London train into a live music venue with the help of performances from Matt Richardson, Travis, The Feeling, Mystery Jets, Gavin James and Walking On Cars.
Campaign: The re-launch of Virgin Radio
PR Team: Wireless Group in-house team
Timing: February – April 2016
In March, Virgin Radio was re-launched to the UK market. To let everyone know that the station was back with a bang, the brand took over a chartered train and transformed it into a moving live music venue on the day of launch. The train journeyed from Manchester to London, with key presenters broadcasting live as they travelled and some of Britain’s leading bands performed live sets on air and for the guests on board.
- Let the UK know that Virgin Radio is back and start to build an audience of music lovers, generating excitement among potential listeners and also those working within the music industry.
- Deliver high visibility across print, online and social media, clearly illustrating what makes Virgin Radio stand out from its competitors.
- Demonstrate Virgin Radio’s core brand values.
- Reflect the station’s national reach.
- Motivate people to retune their radio and trial the station.
The strategy was to create an epic launch event bringing news of the re-launch of Virgin Radio to both new and existing radio listeners, utilising talent and affiliations to deliver profile and credibility, and creating assets to continue the story long after the event has finished.
Working alongside event production agency TBI Media, Virgin Radio formed a key collaboration with Virgin Trains. This involved the delivery of a chartered train, wrapped in powerful Virgin Radio creative, and the planning of a bespoke journey and timings for the day of launch. The train was renamed The Virgin Radio Star and unveiled to guests and media at the start of the day by breakfast presenter Edith Bowman and Sam Branson. It then departed Manchester for London.
In addition to a momentous live broadcast from Edith and her Drivetime colleague, Matt Richardson, Travis, The Feeling, Mystery Jets, Gavin James and Walking On Cars all performed numerous hits live to guests during the journey, who enjoyed hospitality from a train which had been completely transformed to replicate a live performance space.
As well as being fitted with technology to enable live broadcasting from the train, the seats were removed to create a performance space big enough for the bands to play, complete with bare brick façade on the walls, Virgin Radio branded accessories including window stickers and drink coasters – and accessories across the seating and luggage storage to bring the music theme to life.
The journey also featured a call from Necker Island from Richard Branson himself. It went out live on-air as he caught up with son Sam on board the train.
On arrival in London, guests were whisked across London to get a first glimpse of the Virgin Radio studios, together with a final live performance from Reef in the station’s brand new performance area, the “Red Room”.
Guests travelled from London to Manchester the day before, enjoying a dinner and drinks hosted by the station’s team, complete with menu selected by some of the station’s presenters and specially created Virgin Radio cocktails, during the evening.
The event was filmed and photographed, with interviews conducted throughout the journey and media invited to participate in the launch event at various different stops throughout the journey.
The re-launch of Virgin Radio generated 80 pieces of coverage during the launch period (February – April 2016). The event announcement saw coverage in every major media and marketing title, including PR Week, Campaign and Marketing Week, and pieces in large entertainment/music titles, including Digital Spy and Complete Music Update.
Some 19 pieces of coverage were generated by the launch event itself. This included Campaign’s Media on Trial, which said: “judging by its first five hours of broadcasting, Virgin Radio smashed it on every aspect”.
There were also two in-depth case studies, three prominent pieces in marketing and media title The Drum and a newspiece in The Sun, as well as pieces in event press and listings magazines.
The event had a high impact on social media, increasing Virgin Radio’s Twitter following by more than 1,000 on that day alone, and bystanders also shared pictures when they saw the train making its way across the country.
Artists were also encouraged to share their experiences on social media, while a video was edited and turned around that day to allow seeding on social media and across all online channels, driving further engagement and more than 3,000 views.
The event generated huge excitement and hype both on and off air, gaining high visibility in the industry. This was virtue of not just being a world-first in broadcasting, but also for taking a significant risk – as we were broadcasting the event live, it would have fallen flat if the technology had failed on the day. The risk element was a very good way to promote Virgin Radio’s brand values, the core of which is about being bold and doing things a little bit differently.
The train made stops in Crewe, Birmingham and Rugby, giving regional press in those areas the opportunity to interview the on-board talent, and showcasing Virgin Radio as a national brand.
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