To illustrate the dynamism, dedication, and tremendous pride of Norfolk Southern employees and their role in moving the American economy, Norfolk Southern sponsored three virtual reality films produced by Courageous Studios using stunning 360 technology.
Norfolk Southern gave Democratic and Republican convention attendees tours of its trains and a chance to meet some of its employees without anyone having to walk outside. Bruno Maestri, Norfolk Southern's VP of Government Relations and Corporate Communications, said the goal was to help educate convention delegates, policymakers, and other attendees while they were gathered in one place. "I think what you want to take out of it is that it's a complex industry and that it takes a lot of people," Maestri said. "We have 30,000 people, and it takes really quality people to make this thing happen."
Through a partnership with agency RP3 and CNN's in-house brand agency, Courageous, Norfolk Southern sponsored three short 360-degree VR films highlighting various aspects of the company's business in ways that help decision-makers better understand the complexity of the freight rail industry:
The movies, which people could view with Samsung Gear VR headsets at a CNN-hosted restaurant next to the convention centers in Cleveland and Philadelphia, let viewers ride atop, alongside, or underneath the massive machines in a way that brought them closer than ever before.
How it got done: In one movie based at a facility called Moorman Yard, Courageous used drones to shoot 360-degree video from above the vast railyard to show how the trains are transported. Rather than producing highly scripted promotional material, CNN approached the project with a deliberately understated tone that was inspired by the humility and pride of Norfolk Southern's employees.
Two producer-directors went to the rail yards to find characters who captured the spirit of the company. Equipped solely with voice recorders, the producers conducted interviews with foremen, site managers, and others the tracks while also scouting scenes for future shoots. Courageous then returned with a crew and a 360-degree camera rig.
Even with stunning camerawork the heart of the story was the earnest nature of the workers, many of whom have worked for Norfolk Southern for decades.
Kicking off simultaneously with the Republican convention, Courageous started a campaign on Facebook targeting local, state and national policymakers across the country, directing them to the videos and a microsite with additional content about Norfolk Southern and its role in the U.S. economy.
This Norfolk Southern sponsorship delivered massive impressions, views, and engagements during a critical messaging timeframe surrounding the RNC and DNC Conventions. Sponsored content was featured for 20MM Impressions across CNN sites, Native Card placements added 2.4 MM Impressions, with Social over-delivering total views of 3.2MM (+73%). Norfolk Southern's message connected in many active ways: 162K newsletter engagements, 26K Native Hub video views, 3.8K Sweepstakes entries during Conventions, plus on-site VR viewing station activations at Convention events.
Press and influencer response was exceptional, with Page Likes and pickups coming from across the political spectrum: Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Politico, Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, and industry trade coverage in Ad Week, B&C, Digiday and Brand Tale.
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