Pennzoil is an iconic American brand with a rich history dating back over 100 years. While respected, however, the brand is not known for being particularly innovative.
The brand was gearing up to announce the launch of a ground-breaking new motor oil made from natural gas. Dubbed “motor oil reimagined,” the Pennzoil Platinum with PurePlus Technology was the first major category innovation in years. Unfortunately, consumers tended to be apathetic about motor oils, and internal research showed that Pennzoil was seen as old and conventional.
Mediacom needed to create major buzz around Pennzoil and get people talking about motor oil – something they normally wouldn’t think twice about – while creating credibility for the brand as being innovative and technology-forward. That meant reaching an audience completely unfamiliar to Pennzoil – early adopters and technology trendsetters – and giving them a reason to care about motor oil.
The idea: a launch just as innovative as the product itself.
First, Mediacom chose an unexpected place for Pennzoil to be: South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in Austin, Texas, the biggest tech/innovation festival on the planet and a well-known launching ground for some of the most successful tech brands.
Positioning Pennzoil as part of SXSW would lend much-needed credibility to the brand and provide a stage to tell its story to some of the most influential consumers and media outlets. But Pennzoil alone wouldn’t draw a crowd.
That’s why the agency tapped into some nostalgia and did something guaranteed to make the 12-year-old inside us all TOTALLY GEEK OUT.
By partnering with Nintendo, it brought to life one of the world’s most popular video games with the first-ever real-world Mario Kart racing experience!
On the quarter-mile track, SXSW attendees could choose among four different life-size go-karts – Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Bowser – all featuring innovative RFID technology. So just like in the game, classic course icons like the banana peel or red turtle shell slowed down racers.
But this time, they could collect Pennzoil Power-Ups, increasing their karts’ speed and performance, making it easy to understand the benefits of Pennzoil PurePlus.
The karts were equipped with Go-Pro cameras, which broadcast live racing on track-side jumbo-screens (just like in the game) and offered drivers personalized YouTube videos of their experience (helping spread the word beyond SXSW).
As an official sponsor of SXSW, Mediacom canvassed the grounds with Pennzoil branding and drove huge buzz through paid media, social, search and PR, even inviting cultural influencers for a VIP experience.
Finally, it brought Mario Karting Reimagined to the masses with a showstopping integration on late-night TV’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, with sidekick Guillermo competing in a hilarious “Battle of the Marios” race!
The client wanted a Super Bowl-level experience for the brand…AND THEY GOT IT. In fact, Fast Company said, “Judging by the increasingly snaking lines…live-action Mario Kart is a Super Bowl-caliber hit.”
Not only was Mario Karting Reimagined the star attraction at SXSW, but it generated over 1 billion earned media impressions:
• “More fun than a barrel of Donkey Kongs” – Popular Science
• “This real life Mario Kart at SXSW is awesome” – Mythbusters
• “Drivers raved about the experience…with many saying it beat the video game version” – Yahoo
• “Best marketing stunt ever!” – Next Shark
• “You got us, Pennzoil. A+.” - Digg
Moreover, The Daily Dot ranked it as one of the biggest wins in SXSW history!
All this combined equalled $2m+ in comparative advertising value and $5m in PR value. And with 53 million Twitter impressions, it was the top ranked SXSW sponsor in social conversation, with 72% higher volume of conversation than the next highest sponsor.
Most importantly, the campaign has resulted in a dramatic 25% increase in volume sales!
Meanwhile, the campaign has already won an OMMA Award, best-in-show at the Creative Media Awards and has been named Adweek Media Plan of the Year. Mamma mia!