How to make your marketing campaign stand out from the crowd

We were set a challenge. There were 35 other teams taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, how would we make one team stand out?

On day one at Story Shop HQ, this was the challenge we were issued by the MacLean brothers – a trio of ocean rowers from Edinburgh set to take on the Atlantic known as Broar.

They had their plan to become the fastest trio to row 3,000 miles from La Gomera to Antigua. So we got to work on our plan for them to become the most talked about ocean rowers in the land (or on the sea).

First meeting 

The priority for us was to listen. By truly working to understand what their objectives were, we could make sure we were fully aligned. Together, we established a powerful question for Story Shop to be guided by:

“Will it raise more money for charity?”

They later said they this established trust to such an extent that for 35 days at sea,  they were able to focus on their own guiding question for decision-making:

“Will it make the boat go faster?”

Building the story

We could have pretended to be them posting from the middle of the Atlantic. But when faced with sleep deprivation, 40 foot plus waves, and the small matter of 1.5 million strokes of the oars, tweeting falls down the priority list. That’s why on all posts we took on the role of the narrator.

Although their achievement might make you think the trio would be laser-focused robots, they aren’t. They are, in the words of Limmy, “extremely down to earth and very funny”. We wanted to demonstrate that they didn’t take themselves too seriously and add humour when others would focus solely on “the struggle”.

Jamie’s video where he candidly revealed how it was all starting to get too much, had far more impact because it was for the lack of a better term, a sea change.

We’d tell the story in as humorous a way as possible and we’d be authentic. Their greatest strength as ocean rowers is that 99% of the time they take absolutely everything in their stride.

It all worked because it was authentic to them – both the humour and the struggle.

The three brothers have a lot in common, but they’re also very different from each other. We made sure to tell that story and develop each brother’s unique personality through our content.

User generated content

We had to navigate three potential challenges:

  • how do we keep users engaged in their journey throughout?
  • how do we keep the content flowing even if their communication system failed?
  • how do we keep donations flowing rather than just pre and post-race?

We tackled this with two user-generated campaigns. One which encouraged followers to take a Broar family photo” (an ode to a pre-race photoshoot where the boys were rowing in an imaginary rowing boat) and the second, a challenge for everyone to row 3,000 metres on a rowing machine in January as they rowed 3,000 miles at sea. Both significantly raised donations and awareness.

Media moments

To make the media and the public more invested in their journey, we sprinkled a series of stories that would make them more familiar to the media. Pre-departure, we issued a release on whisky tasting with their Dad to showcase their distinct “Scottishness” – something which was authentic but would inspire people to get behind them. At the beginning, we worked with close contacts in the media who we knew we could trust to tell their story and showcase them.

Then we set up a series of pre-race interviews which dug a little deeper into their “why” followed by a release announcing their departure from La Gomera. While at sea, we issued media releases or exclusives which would promote the partner charities, showcase their heritage to rally the people of Scotland behind them, and tell the story of how they were coping with the challenge or encourage user-generated content. These were the “Secret Santa” of Tennent’s on Christmas Day, the dram gifted by their father to enjoy on Hogmanay, and the Broar challenge. This meant, by the time they arrived in Antigua, their increased profile in the media meant more people were invested in their journey which helped to create a massive amount of media (200+ pieces of coverage in The Guardian, BBC, CNN…)

They even made it onto the couch on BBC Breakfast…

Stakeholder engagement

A good marketing campaign is a team effort. As soon as we came on board we set up calls with the race organisers Atlantic Campaigns, the partner charities Feedback Madagascar and Children 1st and Broar’s sponsors, like Mara Seaweed, Cairnhill, Panda Brew, Carol Swift Interiors and Nairn’s Oatcakes, to make sure we truly understood our role, how we could help them, and what we needed from them to make sure we could achieve the best possible result for all involved. We also made sure the sign-off process for all content was as smooth as possible and expectations were clear for what each party would expect.


Broar’s media effort was a team effort and we were very lucky to work with Broar’s videographers Lost Clock Productions who were not only incredibly creative and skilled in the video they produced, but unbelievably efficient in dealing with all media requests that came in. By having excellent video available at the drop of a hat, there was far less of a barrier for broadcasters to cover the story. We were also lucky to be able to work with the Atlantic Campaigns team during the race, and one of our favourite photographers Elaine Livingstone before the race, to make sure we had a brilliant bank of images to rely on (including the infamous Broar family photo).

Client communication

We were very clear about what we wanted to do from the beginning and set clear goals for what we wanted to achieve, and clear parameters for how we were going to do it. The client trusted within those parameters and we were all aligned behind the same goal, which made everything so much easier. We knew they’d be exhausted and we wanted to make sure marketing required as minimal effort from them as possible for the maximum output. That’s why we were very clear to prioritise what we needed when and in what format.

The end?

No marketing campaign is perfect and there were definitely things we could have improved on in hindsight. But we made sure to constantly learn and adapt as we progressed the campaign to make sure it was a success.

Every campaign is different. Every campaign will have its own guiding question. We were proud to play a part in their fundraising efforts and although we can’t take any credit for them being the fastest trio to row the Atlantic Ocean, we’re glad they trusted us enough so marketing didn’t slow them down.

We just had our first meeting about Broar’s next adventure so keep your eyes peeled across their social media channels @broaratlantic to find out what it will be.

You can read what Broar had to say about working with us here.

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