Case Study: To Do a BlaBlaCar
BlaBlaCar, a long-distance ridesharing community, has become the most prominent sharing economy company in Spain. After putting in place a proactive corporate communications and media relations plan, which focused on BlaBlaCar’s positive attributes (cost savings, sociability, sustainability), the scenario shifted overnight with the small company facing critical issues such as: Accusations of unfair competition from the National Bus Association, alarming messages by the government regarding potential illegality, the appearance of new competitors and the introduction of a paid model versus a previously free system. Burson-Marsteller was tasked with helping BlaBlaCar address these issues and enhance and clarify the company’s core messages.
Burson-Marsteller developed a communications campaign to create positive awareness of BlaBlaCar as the world’s leading long-distance ridesharing community, highlighting the positive and original experience of users and positioning ridesharing and BlaBlaCar as a new, cheaper and more sustainable way to travel for citizens. The team also implemented an issues management strategy focused on avoiding the potentially negative impact of the critical issues the company was facing, being on constant alert, and tactfully approaching Spanish media and bloggers to clarify what BlaBlaCar is and what it is not. The overarching goal was to achieve notoriety, develop a clear brand positioning and create a positive perception of the service.
The team leveraged compelling user stories including Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid fans sharing cars travelling from Madrid to Lisbon to go to the Champions League final, and ridesharing among young people who don’t work in their cities and want to return home for the weekend.
When suggestions of illegality were made by the government, which were alarming for users, the team didn’t waste any time and immediately issued a statement clarifying why the service was legal. Public reaction and a proactive media strategy, including interviews in mainstream national media, online and social media, influenced the government to clarify publicly – in just a few hours - that car sharing is legal.
The shift from a free system to a paid online booking model was gradually introduced - every interview from May until September reinforced key messages that explained the benefits of the paid model for users. We leveraged the Barcelona taxi strike against the launch of Uber to differentiate BlaBlaCar’s positioning. The overwhelming presence of BlaBlaCar in the media, the popularity among its users, the spirit of sharing and saving all came together and created a new concept: “To do a BlaBlaCar,” meaning to save money travelling.
Media coverage for the campaign was significant, with more than 5,000 placements including BlaBlaCar key messages, reaching an audience of 850,187,535 Spaniards. BlaBlaCar was a trending topic on Twitter for three days. Headlines in the media on the new BlaBlaCar concept included: “The Catalan National Assembly improvises a BlaBlaCar,” and “Would you like to do a BlaBlaCar with Esperanza Aguirre (politician)?” Awareness for BlaBlaCar grew exponentially escalating the company into popular culture, even the Spanish group "Los chicos del maiz" included a reference to BlaBlaCar in one of their songs: "as to do a BlaBlaCar with Carromero driving.”
BlaBlaCar is now the most prominent company in the sharing economy in Spain, “far more than Uber or AirBnb” (external survey). Spain is one of BlaBlaCar’s fastest growing markets in Europe.