It’s never been easier for a brand to tell its story in this era of digital and social media. But it has also never been more difficult to drive people to actually engage with and relate to those stories.
Brands can pay for attention – as they’ve been able to do for decades – but those that are ahead of the curve today aren’t creating ads that interrupt, they’re creating content that inspires. They’re not engaging in standard ‘best practices,’ they’re creating what’s next – the best practices of tomorrow.
For years, Hitachi Motorsports has been lauded for their forward-thinking tech like their fuel injectors, which plays out each week fueling every car in the IndyCar series, but as the 2019 season approached, the global brand knew they had an opportunity to push their sponsorship and reach further, engaging consumers like never before. As Hitachi headed into what would prove to be a monumental second year with driver Josef Newgarden, they collaborated with digital agency MKTG to activate with the inventive speed, innovation and teamwork that the Hitachi Motorsports brand represents.
Hitachi has activated their Indycar racing sponsorship across digital with MKTG since 2014, and this year they created the brand’s new racing handle on Instagram, allowing Hitachi Motorsports to connect with a highly visual audience via inspirational, original visual storytelling – a feed-first essential to inspire in our social media, feed-first world of 2019.
“We knew our microsite for Hitachi Motorsports US, which details the racing partnership and celebrates Josef Newgarden all season long wouldn’t be enough,” said Gavin Blawie, Senior Vice President – Strategy and Digital at MKTG. “We also wanted to push Hitachi Motorsports and Josef’s winning season story on Instagram with original, shareable stories as told by multiple artists working in partnership with the brand.”
When it comes to capturing attention and engagement in the feed, eye-catching, aesthetically awesome content reigns supreme, particularly the visual-first mediums like Instagram. Hitachi Motorsports has created inspiring content for years, but with the new Instagram account the opportunity for break through work led to Hitachi’s Artist of the Race Series – a season-long celebration of Josef, his story, and the sport through visually stunning, original brand content by a recruited roster of talented artists built to stand out in the feed. The agency brought on a group of elite artists to create their interpretations of Newgarden and the ongoing story of his drive to a championship IndyCar season. Each race meant the unveiling of something fans had never seen before, representing Newgarden and the excitement and precision playing out on each of the unique tracks around the continent. The campaign was led at MKTG by Elliot Gerard, Vice President and Creative Director at the agency, and the veteran creative noted the goal wasn’t just about eye-catching art, but visualizing the thrilling IndyCar season. [articles continues below examples + artist comments]
In-Depth: A closer look at the Artist of the Race Series (Check out Hitachi Motorsports on IG)
MKTG’s Elliot Gerard worked with racer Josef Newgarden to create a piece for the St. Pete race which started the journey of the Artist of the Race Series:
“To celebrate Newgardens success in St. Petersburg we created an illustration that captured the spirit of the race and energy of his winning moment. After starting the artwork, we gave Newgarden himself an opportunity to complete the piece. This collaboration with Newgarden inspired us to develop the Artist of the Race Series. Sparking the journey of working with talented artists all across the world.” -Gerard, United States.
Artist Joseph Alessio’s work represented the Toronto race and explains the thought that went into every detail:
“For the Honda Indy Toronto, I wanted to take a hand-crafted but graphic approach, incorporating a few different scenes. Toronto is a bold and colorful city, so the piece leans into bold colors, drawn from the Hitachi Indycar livery—such as creating a geometric paper craft centerpiece evoking Toronto landmarks, paired with body paint to create a monochrome effect. The tire smoke is just carefully arranged bits of cotton batting, with a blue light from the left to give it some depth—the result is fun but the glamorous process consisted of obsessively pinching and pulling a tiny bit of cotton between frames! While the process was intensive, the materials were simple—a lot can be done with paper, lighting and a bit of tape! Relying on a couple bold colors and flat surfaces worked well to bridge the gap between graphic and handmade. Between paper shapes, a bit of body tape, a couple of backdrops and a whole lot of frames, the handful of scenes came together to create a dynamic stop motion video.” -Alessio, United States.
Dariusz Ejkiewicz had the challenge of illustrating the Indy 500:
“As a part of the general idea that I came up with using torn paper and scratched elements I was tasked with creating a physical piece of artwork. That artwork was done for The Artist of the Race. I wanted to reverse the process, pretty much creating a piece of artwork that was built from pieces of torn paper, stars, framing, stitches and tape.he whole idea was an interesting process that became very satisfying and in the end the piece I have created was something refreshing for my process. I am very happy that I was a part of this special project. -Ejkiewicz, Poland.
Ann Chen created a masterpiece for Portland:
“As a lettering artist, I knew right away I wanted to highlight the driver’s name as the focus of the design while portraying some key elements of Portland, as the location is fairly new for IndyCar. The direction I received called for a celebration of the race in Portland. I started off with a loose sketch showing lush greenery against a cityscape with the iconic white stag from the Portland Oregon sign sitting at the peak of a triangle that represents Mount Hood. With Josef’s name, I went for a bold script lettering with sharp edges and big curves and a finer script for the name of the race. My favorite part of the illustration is how the letter “L” in Portland is extended to become the track for the Hitachi race car. I love working with bright colors and Hitachi’s brand color, red and black were perfect for creating strong contrast in the palette. My personal style includes using shapes to create a feeling of energy and excitement, which is why I chose to include a confetti of curved triangles and circles throughout the piece. The entire illustration was created using an ipad and drawing app, Procreate.” -Chen, United States.
John Boyce celebrated Team Penske at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:
“Working with MKTG on the Hitachi artist of Race series was great. It was a sport I wasn’t to familiar with but while finding elements to be apart of the artwork, it was cool to learn about Josef Newgarden and how he dominates.” -Boyce, United States.
Sabeena Karnik set up the season finale at Laguna Seca:
“The instant idea was to have the Indycar showcased in the artwork made with paper and the win. Creating the letter H was my original goal which was also backed by the agency that I worked with. [MKTG] sent me imagery associated with the event along with suggestions of using some landmark locations at Monterey California espe-cially the corkscrew curve/bend which I tried incorporating in the piece. I wanted to do a time lapse video to showcase something created very fast to go with the idea of speed and racing so that the entire process with paper layers is clearly visible. Hopefully the fast video was someway in sync with the [race]. – Karnik, India.
“It wasn’t just about creating cool content for the feed,” said Gerard. “It’s about the various creative voices working together to bring Hitachi Motorsports to life, resulting in a powerful message about how each of these artists connected with Hitachi Motorsports, these incredible races, and Josef at the wheel. And then how they translated those feelings into these fantastic pieces that just pop out of the feed. It was exactly what we’d hoped for and it really speaks to Hitachi’s brand mission of Inspiring the Next.”
MKTG recognized the opportunity Hitachi Motorsports was giving them, wanting to collaborate on something extraordinary, a campaign with emotion-infused KPIs with creative placed largely in the hands of talented independent artists. But both sides had the longstanding relationship and the mutual understanding that Newgarden’s success and notoriety presented an opportunity for the Hitachi Motorsports brand to do something special.
“Hitachi is a trusted client who gives us as an agency the trust and opportunity to push the content game, and really play in the area of what is next,” said Blawie, who has worked with Hitachi Motorsports throughout his tenure at MKTG. “Hitachi is a historically important brand and their Indycar sponsorship is a proven driver of relevance and technology showcase. Along with Josef’s rapid ascendance in this sport, this was such an exciting project that everybody wanted to work on.”
Hitachi’s technology powers and enables some of the world’s greatest innovations – including fueling the thrilling IndyCar race – but such high-level tech isn’t readily relatable and necessarily amenable to social media. But spend a minute and browse the Hitachi US Motorsports feed on Instagram, and the inspiring take on tech and winning track record begs to differ. Because marketing and advertising is in a new era, and brand activation means storytelling in ways that haven’t been done before, pressing down on the throttle to speed ahead of the pack to what’s next.
Watch the video below to see more of Hitachi Motorsports Artist of the Race Series!