RAC looks to its heritage in marketing push as it faces possible sale

The RAC is harking back to its heritage with a marketing push that aims to create an emotional connection with members as its owner, Carlyle Group, looks to the future and a possible sale of the motoring group.

Video: The RAC’s new summer TV campaign focusing on its heritage


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The TV ads, which launch on Wednesday (9 July), are aimed at highlighting the brand’s heritage for the first time, showing clips of people “over the ages” heading off on summer road trips. John Orriss, the RAC’s chief marketing officer, says the aim is to build an “emotional connection” with members by celebrating summer motoring and the reassurance having breakdown cover can offer, rather than focusing on the negatives of a car breaking down.

The Carlyle Group has invested heavily in the brand since it bought it three years ago, pouring around £50m into improving the service it offers and expanding into new areas.

It has introduced used car marketplace RAC Cars and RAC Shop, an online motoring accessories store, as well as updated its mobile app to include traffic news, the ability for members to store their details and see the latest offers and links to its other service. It also launched a digital magazine last year that offers tips, information and advice to motorists and has around 300,000 readers.

The Carlyle Group is now looking to recoup that spend and is considering its options for the firm. It is understood to be watching the state of the IPO and M&A markets closely, with analysts expecting a deal in the second half of the year

It will be keen to avoid what happened to the AA when it floated last month. While the IPO valued the AA at £1.4bn, its shares sunk 5 per cent on the opening day of trading.

The RAC is the second largest provider of breakdown cover with 8.2 million members and Orriss claims it is growing “healthily” and increasing market share. However it remains some way behind market leader The AA, which has around 16 million members.

A key priority is to make sure that membership continues to grow, with the new TV campaign including a £50 free fuel offer. It is also, says Orriss, about making sure members realise the RAC is “there for them” by recognising their loyalty through incentives such as half price MOTs, 50 per cent off theme park entry and monthly prize draws.

“This is a competitive market so if that £50 of free fuel can help some new members join the RAC and means their summer goes a bit further that is all good and well. What is important as well is that we do a lot for our members. We are always trying to think about how we can give more back to membership,” he adds.

The new campaign, created by BBH, is the latest to include the RAC’s strapline “Motorists we salute you”, which it came up with two years ago. Orriss says this is the “unifying idea of the RAC brand”, making a nod to its past and heritage while acknowledging this idea is still important to motorists today.

This year, Orriss says the RAC wanted to take this idea even further by including its members in the campaign and engaging more with them. It is running social media activity under the hashtag #RACRoadTrip that encourages customers to send in their road trip memories

Orriss says it has already had 500 entries to its photo competitions and reached 800,000 people, boosting its follower count on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where the campaign is running.

The RAC is also integrating this social activity into its TV campaign, with the first version of the ad (see above) including a shot sent in by a member. The RAC also plans to recut the ad to feature further crowdsourced content.

Orriss says this is the first time the RAC has launched a fully integrated campaign and claims it is a first for the road breakdown category as well. It will be supported by radio ads through its partnership with Global Radio that will promote the full range of services the RAC offers, beyond just breakdown recover, as well as DM.

Orriss says beyond signing up new members, the aim is show off the RAC’s passion for motoring and prove that its positioning as “The Motorists’ Champion” is more than just a marketing line and is instead a “vision that the company lives and breathes”.

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