Interview: Neil Foster, Vice-President of Consultancy (EMEA APAC), Guinness World Records

Neil Foster has spent the last 25 years working in PR and Integrated Advertising agencies in London, Sydney and Melbourne.  In his role at Guinness World Records, he leads the creative and commercial records Consultancy, which creates tailor made record solutions for brands and businesses for marketing campaigns.

In the light of this weekend triple treadmill world records attempt by Adam ‘Tango’ Holland, FMBE’s Frank Wainwright asked Neil Foster about the role of GWR in lockdown and the new normal.

How important is it for GWR to continue to inspire people during lockdown? 

Lockdown has been challenging for everyone – people are stuck indoors and are naturally looking for brands and organisations who can entertain them and bring a little joy to their everyday lives.  Record breaking answers this need with the simple idea of being the ‘best in the world’ and the jeopardy of ‘will they?’ or ‘won’t they?’ delighting audiences everywhere.

Record breaking is therefore particularly relevant for marketers at this challenging time – it can bring together audiences, encouraging them to rally together and achieve a collective goal.  To allow for brands and agencies to continue breaking records in a virtual world, we have pivoted quickly and can now offer virtual adjudications as well as a whole new suite of exciting digital records.   Our records can be attempted across a broad range of digital platforms including popular social media sites, video conferencing apps and bespoke systems.

Has lockdown made GWR more important to athletes/performers/entertainers to give them something well-recognised to aim for?

It is part of many athlete’s DNA to have a significant event or achievement to aim for – and with live events being cancelled, virtual sporting events have really risen to the fore.  Becoming a Guinness World Records holder carries the ultimate kudos and like our physical attempts, breaking a record online requires a huge amount of endurance and training. Online record breaking also provides great PR and marketing opportunities for any associated sports brands, who can get involved via sponsorship or to promote the attributes of the equipment being used.

What efforts has GWR made to embrace record breaking whilst following social distancing guidelines?

During the outbreak period, we have advised all applicants to carefully follow their own local government guidelines and social distancing measures.  We are also currently only accepting applications for online records.  To facilitate record breaking during this period, we have developed our virtual adjudication product and also introduced a large number of digital record titles which can be carried out without face to face contact.

What have been the challenges to the adjudication process?

With advents in technology, we can now allow for our adjudicator to appear direct on screen, in uniform, to monitor online record attempts.  If successful, we can also incorporate certificate presentations to really bring the excitement of achieving a record to life.  To limit any challenges on the day, our adjudicator runs through all guidelines and technology requirements in detail with each of our clients before an attempt.  Our online attempts do not require specific digital skills, so as long as there is a reliable internet connection and all equipment has been tested, then an attempt will go smoothly.


What excites you about record attempts that are relayed virtually?

For a brand or agency, record breaking is a powerful tool – and can be used as a platform to deliver carefully tailored messaging which reflect a product truth and have universal appeal.  By attempting a record online, activity reaches a far wider global audience so opportunities for engaging and sharing content increase significantly.  Live streaming for example opens an attempt up for everyone to see and can be watched time and time again.

Is virtual a good opportunity for brand sponsored record attempts?

Record breaking provides a great opportunity for brands – individual record breakers can be sponsored and their attempts used to raise profile for a brand’s product or offering – this could include the clothing on the athlete’s back or the equipment that is being used.  Stand-alone virtual record breaking campaigns by sports brands are also popular – for example, Peloton coordinated a virtual attempt to promotes its ride programs, connecting its fitness-loving customers to achieve the Largest online static cycling lesson. The goal was to get 5,000 riders to participate, and Peloton doubled that number, smashing the record as the brand pulled in people from different locations.

What are the broader benefits of virtual sporting record attempts during lockdown?

Over the lockdown period, we have worked with a number of brands to encourage members of the public to break records and raise money for valuable causes.  A great example is KultureCity, a US charity which supports children with Autism and their families.  The organisation created its ‘Stay at Home Race for Autism’ event in April which brought together members of the public to break a record.  The charity achieved the title of Most people jogging/ running online simultaneously, raising money to help families during the pandemic.  Not only did this attempt raise valuable funds, but it also brought people together and raised morale at the heart of the lockdown.

Will virtual and online events continue to be a valuable part of the GWR mix after real events return?

Absolutely, whilst our live events will return to prominence once lockdown is over, virtual record breaking is certainly here to stay and has lots of great benefits – especially in terms of connecting global audiences.  We now have a wide array of digital solutions to offer our clients such as online video chains, online albums, virtual adjudications, and virtual performances – and we’re also developing our own digital platform to accommodate virtual attempts.  With a strong mixture of on and offline attempts, we can now offer our clients a far stronger portfolio of record titles to build into their marketing campaigns.

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