Performance Communications has ‘come of age’ at 18 years old, but there have been plenty of highlights along the way.
The company was born out of passion – our two Managing Directors founded Performance because they grew weary of working on stuff that didn’t ignite their shared passions for sports and all things automotive.
That passion runs like a thread through the history of the agency and can be illustrated in the amazing work, award wins and the nurturing nature of the company’s culture over the last 18 years.
Performance Communications started life in 2002 as Performance PR in a serviced office in Raynes Park (the estate agents called it West Wimbledon).
Our first ever client was Accident Exchange, joined soon after by Caterham Cars, The Buzz Recruitment Agency and Warranty Direct. Two of these remain with the agency today.
Word of mouth quickly spread the company’s burgeoning reputation for creative news, stunts and campaigns, and advocacy led to the agency quickly punching above its weight, working with the ECB on the launch of the Twenty20 Cup and soon after signing Comma Oil and Avon Tyres to the fold.
The quickly growing team meant a move to a second Raynes Park office in the summer of 2004, as well as helping Fiat with its Heineken Cup and Rally involvements.
By 2005 and, with nine people on board, Performance found itself again needing bigger accommodation and moved into The Factory in Acre Road, Kingston-upon-Thames.
So-called because the building used to be an assembly plant for Hawker Siddeley aircraft parts, the property in Acre Road was our home until December 2008, when the business shifted up another notch and moved into the roof space of Parc House, just next door to The Factory.
In our first decade, we were already showing the creative flair and dogged persistence to generate PR stories and campaigns that won us genuine cut-through for our clients in the media.
Interviewing a former heartthrob singer and Hollyoaks stalwart who came looking for a job with us
It was an entertaining and varied first 10 years, but the fun was only just beginning…
By 2012, Nissan Europe had become Performance’s biggest account and would go on to help us generate some of the wildest, most exciting activations in our history.
The year of the London Olympics started fast for us – literally – with January seeing us bringing a colossal and fully integrated campaign to its culmination to launch the Nissan Juke-R NISMO with a unique supercar race through the streets of Dubai. Journalists from all over Europe came to experience one of the maddest cars Nissan has ever built.
In March, we kept our foot in to launch the Nissan Deltawing, a unique, British-designed Le Mans car which aimed to complete the famous 24 Hour race using half the fuel and half the tyres. We were at La Sarthe in June to see the dart-shaped missile win the hearts of the 250,000 fans, only to get punted off by a wayward Toyota after six hours.
Our heartbreaking footage of Deltawing driver Satoshi Motoyama trying desperately to fix the stricken car by the side of the track went viral and a legend was born.
Citroen’s official partnership with Arsenal Football Club also led to us creating the ultimate Gooners fan car, creating a unique livery designed by famous cartoonist Gerald Scarfe and signed by coach Arsene Wenger. The car was raffled off for charity during the football season.
Another year, another world first and, this time, we wondered whether it would be possible to ride a motorcycle under a car that was on two wheels. The ‘Undertaker’ stunt was conceived for Alfa Romeo to highlight the brand’s sponsorship of the FIM World Superbike Championship and promote the launch of the Alfa Romeo Mito Quadrifoglio Verde special edition.
We launched Nissan GB’s partnership of Olympic Team GB and Paralympics GB on the ‘Road to Sochi and Rio’ with Lord Sebastien Coe and went back to the Le Mans 24 Hours, this time with Caterham which made its La Sarthe debut.
We cut a Nissan LEAF in half to literally show the inner workings of the world’s first mass-produced pure electric car and helped launch Caterham’s first new model – the AeroSeven – since the Caterham 21 around 20 years before in Singapore.
In August, a chance conversation with our client at APU, Accident Exchange’s anti-fraud unit, led to one of our most successful stories ever in which we revealed a fresh new crash-for-cash scam that involved fraudsters flashing headlights at drivers as though to let them out of a junction and then deliberately running into them.
Launched exclusively with BBC Breakfast, the ‘Flash for Crash’ scam story was picked up by almost every national news outlet in the land. It would later win the agency its first major award, the CIPR Automotive Campaign of the Year award 2014.
In 2013, we realised that our Performance PR name was actually doing the agency something of a disservice. The media landscape and, thus, the scope of work that an agency that had traditionally existed in PR had changed immeasurably during our first decade.
Our role for clients now takes in so much more than PR – video, events, brokering partnerships, digital and community management were now all part of our daily scope.
With that in mind, in October Performance PR rebranded itself to become… Performance Communications. A far more fitting reflection of the work we actually do.
In the year Performance won its first major award (see above), we also threw a Nissan LEAF down a hill in Wiltshire in a giant zorb in order to illustrate Nissan’s ‘safety shield’ package of safety technologies.
We also teamed up with Caterham F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi to launch the Caterham Seven 160 in his native Japan in the British Embassy in Tokyo.
The huge Nissan activations continued apace, as we created the world’s first self-cleaning car – a Nissan Note – using nano-paint technology; we also left our mark on London and Berlin with ‘clean graffiti’ art installations which reversed the usual graffiti MO – instead of painting on walls, our artist cleaned the grime left by dirty petrol and diesel cars to leave striking reverse graffiti pictures.
Our clients Citroen and Cooper Tires both had sponsorships of Arsenal Football Club – to leverage for Citroen, we created a piece of content to launch the C4 Cactus in which we pranked star members of the Arsenal first team by pretending out female stunt driver was a member of AFC women’s team… all to help Britain’s drivers to overcome parking fears.
Citroen’s Parking Heroes campaign won multiple awards, including a PRCA Dare Award, UK Social Media Communications Award and a Masters of Marketing Award.
For Cooper, we played on the insight that football fans love, above all else, to see their heroes showing off their skills. And so a series of precision challenges was born. The 2014 edition featured an elevated row of four tyres that Arsenal legends including Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tried to boot the ball through in order to score.
Future Cooper Precision Challenges would include a tyre pendulum swinging from the crossbar and a giant ski slope ramp down which tyres were flung, with players aiming to score through the tyre as it fell across the face of the goal.
World records were something of a theme in 2015.
With Citroen, Performance set a Guinness World Record for the most number of music gigs played in different cities in a 12-hour period along with singer, Foxes. Sticking with music and Citroen, we also released a single in conjunction with Arsenal – ‘Return of the Fan’ was a take-off of the Mark Morrison classic, Return of the Mack, and was subsequently played live at the FA Cup Final.
Elsewhere, another Performance Comms world record came courtesy of Nissan. Having created the world’s first glow-in-the-dark car – a Nissan LEAF – using paint that harvests sunlight during the day to glow at night, the same full-size car was used to create the world’s largest glow-in-the-dark painting in the Netherlands.
We also helped Maserati launch its Maserati 100 initiative, an annual entrepreneur awards event that won instant Governmental recognition and support and is still going today, now in its sixth year.
Performance was appointed to work for the world-famous Goodwood Festival of Speed, a client that still works alongside us today. Initially, we were brought in to promote the Festival’s Moving Motor Show, then the launch of the FOS Future Lab, a veritable orgy of future technologies and sci-fi curios.
Meanwhile, to celebrate 45 years of Range Rover – and its rich heritage in precision engineering and lightweight aluminium construction – Performance went to China and drive the new Range Rover over a bridge constructed entirely out of paper.
In the year that roughly half the country sat aghast at the nation’s decision to leave the EU and rather more people across the world sat aghast at America’s decision to elect a gameshow host as President, Performance Communications was celebrating once more. Early in the year, the agency won another prestigious award, being named the inaugural Newspress PR Agency of the Year.
Elsewhere, a win of a different kind was achieved as we started working with our first bona fide two-wheeled manufacturer, the iconic British brand Triumph Motorcycles.
To demonstrate the outstanding 4×4 credentials of JEEP, we helped it become the first vehicle to drive UP an Olympic-standard white water rafting course and we recruited the first 20 brand ambassador’s in Multipower’s history to take part in a social media photography campaign.
Another year, another big Nissan Europe activation and this time we explored what the Fuel Station of the Future might look like, with the help of iconic British architect, Norman Foster.
Even bigger was to come from the Nissan crew, who later went racing round the streets of Monaco in the dead of night in the futuristic Bladeglider concept EV. To make it a real blockbuster, they enlisted the help of Hollywood A-lister Margot Robbie to be the car’s driver.
Performance Communications was recognised in the PR Week Top 150 PR Consultancies, entering the chart at #51, a prestigious list to be included within.
Later in the year, we had cause to celebrate once more, as the agency scooped its second CIPR Automotive Campaign of the Year award thanks to its ‘Tradesman Trials’ campaign for Fiat commercial vehicles. The champagne continued to flow when we picked up the Best Automotive Campaign award at the Masters of Marketing for the Nissan X Trail for dogs activation.
With Land Rover, we threw TV survival expert Bear Grylls out of a plane. On his way back down to earth, he was able to demonstrate the technical capabilities of the Discovery on the ground, rearranging the seats to accommodate him and his six freefalling mates.
Citroen pranked the footballing world on April 1 by claiming that Arsenal’s home ground, Emirates Stadium, would be fitted with a retractable roof just like the car brand’s C1 Airscape model and we created the world’s first contactless payment key fob for DS Automobiles, which later won a national innovation award.
The year started with a challenge of a different kind, as Performance got rid of the January blues with a fitness challenge for charity, riding the equivalent of Lands End to John O’Groats on a static bike. Each team member did 20-minute stints and the challenge was met with more than a little competition along the way. In subsequent years, the challenge continued with another bike ride in 2019 and a brutal, horrific torture instrument masquerading as a climbing machine providing the challenge.
Shortly after the original biking challenge, Performance moved into its current home – The Warehouse. We didn’t have to move far, only as far as the building next door. But the newly-fitted offices allowed us more space into which to expand in the coming years.
In more ‘regular’ work, we completed a lap of British Grand Prix circuit, Silverstone, blindfolded in order to demonstrate the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s advanced technology designed to improve the connection between car, driver and road.
Skoda played on the old adage that kids like to play with cardboard boxes more than whatever came in them by creating possibly the world’s most kid-friendly car – made entirely out of cardboard. The Kid Karoq marked the launch of the real model – the ideal car for parents.
And, with Land Rover, we partnered with innovative addressing tech company what3words to give every home and property on the remote Isle of Mull a unique 3-word address to help with emergency responses and postal service.
For endurance event company, Wolf Run, we got several big names from the world of rugby back together to take on a Wolf Run event as a pack.
In the most important change to the agency’s structure since we changed from Performance PR to Communications, we launched our Technology division in January. Given that technology plays such a vital part in both sports and automotive sectors, it was the next logical step for the business.
Almost as important (to some) was the introduction of dogs to the Performance office. Subsequently, several dogs owned by various members of the team have graced The Warehouse on several occasions, reducing stress levels and prompting mass outbeaks of high-pitched cooing.
Elsewhere, we launched Maserati’s partnership with the Harlequins rugby club and Alfa Romeo was back on track, taking its Stelvio Quadrifoglio to four iconic UK racetracks and setting not one, but three new fastest lap records in the process.
Later, we were helping motoring parents once more with the creation of the Skoda Parent Taxi app (which has had more than 6,000 downloads to date). Instead of ferrying around children for free, the app allows parents to ‘charge’ for car journeys in household tasks that the kids have to carry out as payment.
To coincide with the latter stages of the Rugby World Cup and American Football taking over London, we worked with Jeep to task Dylan Hartley and Danny Cipriani with an exciting American Football Trick Shot Challenge from the roof top of the Millennium Mills building in the Docklands.
The year is still young but, so far in the new decade, we have already demonstrated VW vans’ parking tech by performing precision parking stunts in one of the LCV range, launched a video for SEAT showing why it takes parents 4 whole days of their year getting kids in and out of the car and spent a weekend in Portugal riding Triumphs with ambassadors including ‘the body coach’ Joe Wicks and Olympic cycling hero, Victoria Pendleton.