Valvoline Revs Up Online With Sweepstakes and Contest

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Valvoline Co. is turning to the Internet to promote its SynPower line of automotive oils, additives and cleaners.


The maiden online marketing effort -- The SynPower Great Canadian Fishing Sweepstakes and The SynPower Big Catch Photo Contest -- was born after Valvoline, Lexington, KY, unearthed an interesting characteristic of automotive chemical customers.


"We found out through market research that people who buy our products and typically buy automotive chemicals index high with fishing," said Tim Wimpf, marketing manager at Valvoline Chemical Brands. "Therefore, using fishing in this sweepstakes and the Big Catch promotion is to encourage people to come into our site. We believe there'll be a high-rated crossover from learning more about our product and then eventually purchasing on the shelf."


Consumers enter online at www.valvoline.com/synpower or by mail to register for the Canadian fishing sweepstakes. The winner and a guest get $1,000 in cash and an all-expenses-paid trip to Northern Manitoba's Elk Island, one of Canada's most popular fishing destinations.


As a corollary, Valvoline is encouraging anglers to send to its Web site digital photographs of their biggest recent catches. Valvoline will post the photographs on its site and will ask visitors to vote for their favorite entries. Votes are limited to one per e-mail each day. The winner will receive a tackle box containing Rapala fishing lures worth $100.


These promotions support an ongoing in-store effort at large retailers to push SynPower. Valvoline is including a free, limited-edition Rapala lure in specially marked boxes of the SynPower Complete Fuel System Treatment.


Created for Valvoline by Finland's Rapala VMC Corp., the lure is positioned as a collector's item and comes with two full-size treble hooks. The bait is silver-plated with a blue background and red-blood line.


Debuting in fall 1997, the SynPower Complete Fuel System Treatment is an annual treatment with synthetic cleaners that aims to lower emissions and prevent fuel system corrosion.


Targeting males age 25 to 49, the online sweepstakes and photo contest will run through Sept. 30. CoActivity.com, Cincinnati, is handling the Valvoline interactive marketing effort.


The $1.2 billion Valvoline expects its efforts to raise consumer awareness of SynPower, which competes with Castrol North America's Castrol Syntec and Pennzoil Quaker State's Slick 50.


Wimpf said the Internet also will help create trial for Valvoline products and potentially will attract people to the SynPower franchise.


"We found that a lot of these people are already using some kind of automotive chemicals and not necessarily our brand," he said, "and other than a direct, frontal approach against [rival brands], this invites consumers to what we're doing. ... It allows us to bring them without attacking who they're currently using."


Valvoline hopes the online promotions will create a database of consumers with whom the company can communicate directly.


"Our primary effort would be to do opt-in permission marketing, e-mails, offers, technical data," Wimpf said.


Next on the horizon is a revamp of valvoline.com, which attracts an average of 25,000 unique visitors a month. The new site is expected to have friendlier navigation and to be more informational about Valvoline products.


"I'd say the challenge is to actually get people to visit your site who are not your current users," Wimpf said. "The challenge you're overcoming is bringing people in a non-threatening way and letting them experience something they have an interest in, which, in this case, is fishing and photos.


"And while they're there," he said, "making our site more of a destination than just a place to click through."


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