Vodafone shares entrepreneurs’ stories to promote its business accelerator programme

Vodafone has used Blacksand and FCB to promote its new Vodafone xone business accelerator programme and to tell the story of Kiwi entrepreneurs taking their startups to the market.

Earlier this month, 170 applicants were whittled down to 10 to be the first cohort of a new business accelerator designed to nurture the best ideas and Kiwi talent in the research and commercialisation of technology.

Vodafone global accelerator programme, Vodafone xone, will back the 10 startups, from sectors including smart home, sports broadcasting, agriculture, education, health and big data, as each works its way into the market. The teams will receive a total package worth more than $150,000, including $25,000 in seed funding and mentoring as part of the six-month programme.

Government agency Callaghan Innovation is backing the programme and has come on board as a partner, committing $900,000 over the next three years to help fund Vodafone xone’s Innovation Lab.

Following the winners announcement, Vodafone has released a series of videos as part of a campaign to set Vodafone xone apart from being seen as just another business support, investment and mentor programme.

Vodafone manager enterprise brand and communications Nileema Allerston says innovation is an important part of the brand strategy, which is squarely focused on keeping Kiwis confidently connected.

“Bringing to life what technology enables and recognising the unique spirit of New Zealanders and our diverse society is the cornerstone of how we communicate our brand,” Allerston says.

The videos highlight the Vodafone xone programme, as well as profile some of the entrepreneurs to show the passion they have for their businesses.

Two of those entrepreneurs are Pat and Nicola Martin, whose story of applying for the programme and pitching their SolarBright startup was captured in a video by freelance photographers from TVNZ and TV3 and edited by TVNZ’s Blacksand.

Vodafone external communications manager Libby Middlebrook says SolarBright was chosen through the application process as a representative of all the companies applying to be part of Vodafone xone.

Also putting four more startups in the spotlight is the ‘Water Cooler’ series, produced with FCB. The short videos see the entrepreneurs discussing their business and the journey they took to create it.

Allerston says the campaign is “powerful” because it doesn’t focus on what the entrepreneurs make, but rather, on what makes them. She says the focus is to celebrate the spirit of the innovator and what it honestly takes to be one.

“We know New Zealanders and the media are fascinated by what makes a ‘no. 8 fibre’ pioneer – their motivations, what makes them tick, and how they keep going. And we believe it’s a set of characteristics that marks us out as Kiwis. We really want to see this celebrated and supported by brands.”

Through part of a campaign, Allerston says Vodafone xone wanted to shift away from traditional advertising and an editorial style was chosen to best tell the stories.

The editorial style could be the reason SolarBright’s story has travelled so far. It was run by the NZ Herald, the The Press in Christchurch and was picked up by television news networks.

Middlebrook says it may do more videos, water cooler or current affairs-style, as it moves through the campaign.

The videos will be shared on social media and shown until 17 February and Vodafone xone will continue into next year with a new group of entrepreneurs.

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