When the Electrification Coalition chose Orlando as the destination for Drive Electric Orlando, a new program designed to place car renters behind the wheel of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs), it faced a major obstacle in generating consumer interest.
Focus group research conducted by the Coalition revealed potential renters experience “range anxiety,” the concern that a car will run out of electric charge and leave the owner/renter stranded. The Coalition needed to convince potential consumers that an EV would provide enough range for family and business travelers to experience Orlando to its full potential. Success of Drive Electric Orlando would depend on the active participation of travel industry partners, as well as the creation of broad consumer awareness of the program to drive rentals.
Curley & Pynn was tasked by the Coalition with hosting a memorable launch event that would generate brand awareness among potential consumers and influence tourism industry executives to support the program’s long-term success.
The Strategic Firm® Approach
Our objectives were clear from the jump: attract at least 200 tourism industry guests to attend our mid-afternoon, mid-week launch event, secure attendance from at least three local broadcast outlets and generate positive coverage about the program in at least two dozen regional/national articles.
We began by working with the Coalition, local partners and online resources to identify local charging stations throughout Central Florida, focusing on the primary tourism corridor and identifying those that offer free charging. From there, we developed invitation recommendations by researching boards of directors for all major tourism industry associations in the Central Florida market. Curley & Pynn also researched regulations governing the indoor use of vehicles, and toured the event space (donated by a hotel industry partner) to determine signage needs, room setup, etc.
Our team knew the event needed a “wow factor” to impress tourism industry executives familiar with million-dollar events in the world’s theme park capital and to generate attention not only among local media, but also with national travel consumer and trade media.
Curley & Pynn hustled to coordinate event logistics. This included, but was not limited to: Working with an A/V vendor to design a dramatic, 100-foot-wide backdrop and logo backdrop banners; working with stage vendors to provide both a foundation for guest speakers as well as a reinforced stage for an EV; managing the installation of specialty flooring to allow for display vehicles in the room; coordinating with a local public affairs agency on talking points for guest speakers; coordinating day of event logistics with hotel staff; working with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and General Motors to organize post-event test drives; managing dress rehearsals; and, designing and distributing invitations.
To support media outreach, our team developed a press kit about the Drive Electric Orlando program, wrote and distributed media alerts about the event, distributed an embargoed news release and organized pre-event interviews with the goal of securing feature-length coverage of the launch. We worked the phones with local news outlets, as well as a huge list of national travel consumer media to encourage coverage. Messaging focused not only on the goals of the program, but also on education about EVs, their range and the extensive network of charging stations throughout Central Florida – all with the goal of alleviating concerns over range anxiety.
During the live event, mayors of Orlando and Orange County entered the room driving a Nissan Leaf over a red carpet to a spot in front of the stage. The two mayors then spoke briefly before introducing a brief video narrated by Katie Couric, which introduced details about the program. Lights then faded to black and the visual arts team from Snap! Orlando unveiled a high-energy, three-minute display of sight and sound, using video mapping technology over a Nissan Leaf set on the stage. Media interviews were then coordinated post-event with the mayors, members of the leadership team from the Electrification Coalition and industry partners, while guests were invited to test drive electric cars.
The event itself exceeded the initial goal, with more than 280 industry executives attended the event, filling the ballroom to capacity. Guests remained at the venue for as long as 90 minutes after the event to participate in test drives. Enterprise Rent-A-Car alone provided test drives to 40 people, nearly 15 percent of the total attendees.
Nearly all local media attended and/or covered the event. This included national correspondents, such as the Associated Press, which we worked with to manage a pre-event EV city tour with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. During the two weeks after Drive Electric Orlando’s launch event, we tracked more than 100 placements, including USA Today, Travel Weekly and a widespread Associated Press story.