Mar 11, 2011

GM at SXSW: Blending Social Media, Branding and Real Life

chevy volt sxsw social media

Rob Peterson, social media manager for Chevy Volt, delivers back seat commentary while Sarah test drives a Volt at SXSW

A team from PR Newswire has joined the throngs descending upon Austin, Texas for the annual SXSW Interactive confab, which features a rich blend of technology and panels of creative thinkers offering provocative ideas about our interactive futures.

Victoria Harres, Ruth Cisneros and I collected our badges and then hung out in the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge to top off our batteries and catch up on some Tweeting . We then headed outside, planning to synch our schedules and soak up some sun.  However, we were distracted by a fleet of shiny Chevys and were intercepted by Volt social media manger Rob Peterson.

Before we knew what was happening, we were ushered into one of the Volts, and I was behind the wheel, with Rob leaning on the window, describing all the unique features of the Volt (and providing considerable entertainment, too.)

Then he hopped into the back seat, and we were off for a quick ride around Austin.  It was the first time I’d driven a hybrid, and I was impressed.  So impressed, in fact, that I was distracted from what I wanted to talk about – namely, Chevy’s multifaceted SXSW presence -a  blend of social media, live contests, branding and real life experiences in the run up to – and at – SXSW this year.

As we pulled up in the Volt, Chris Perry, the VP of US marketing for GM walked up.  He offered to give us a ride in one of the Chevy Cruzes parked nearby.  The Cruze is GM’s “global car” – it’s available in more than 100 markets worldwide.  We jumped at the chance, and even better, Chris agreed to chat on camera with us about GM’s marketing approach to SXSW while he drove.

The company is taking what I’d call an immersion approach.  In the weeks prior to SXSW, GM sent a teams of drivers across the nation on the #ChevySXSW road trip, in which 10 teams of drivers met 10 challenges, and raised funds for Adopt A Classroom.   Tweeting along the way (see #chevysxsw) the teams raised money for some lucky schools, and generated awareness and a lot of great content for Chevy.

pr newswire, prnewswire twitter sxsw

Vicky Harres, the lead voice of PR Newswire on Twitter, tweets away during SXSW at the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge

At SXSW, Chevy is sponsoring a networked triva game powered by Austin-based Qrank, the popular Volt Recharge Lounge, and the Catch A Chevy free ride program.   These might sound like disparate initiatives, but really, the GM team have created a smart, integrated program.  The Qrank game raises awareness. The Recharge Lounge brings droves of event goers in need of a battery charge and a break to an area populated by Chevy folks. Parked outside the Recharge Lounge are the Volts and other vehicles.  Chevy is confident in their product (and rightly so, in my humble opinion) and is using this opportunity to get a bunch of connected people into their cars.  They’re going to generate a lot of authentic, earned media from SXSW, and more than a little goodwill, too.  This is a textbook example of integrating social media and gaming with branding and real life experiences.

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s VP-social media.  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik (and track her down if you’re at SXSWi!)

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