Courting millennials, Shell, Phillips 66 turn to social media influencers –

When car enthusiast John Hennessey started a YouTube channel more than a decade ago, he just wanted his Sealy auto modification shop to keep up with the times. Fast forward 12 years and Hennessey’s social media presence has exploded to 340,000 YouTube subscribers and 1 million Instagram followers watching his mechanics modify high-end cars and trucks to go ridiculously fast. Hennessey, who describes himself as the“Chief Horsepower Evangelist” at his company, rubs elbows with famous Indy 500 and NASCAR drivers at automotive industry events. Hennessy’s own race to fame has been fueled in part by his partnership with one of the biggest oil companies in the world, Royal Dutch Shell, which provides money, connections, technical consultations and supplies the motor oil — Shell’s Pennzoil brand — his shop can use. In exchange Hennessy’s company promotes Shell and its products to its vast and growing legion of followers. A quarter-mile track where Hennessey Performance films test drives has been renamed the “Pennzoil Proving Grounds Performance Track” so Shell’s lubricant gets a nod every time a drag racing video is posted, and each video can garner 200,000 views or more. Hennessey, 56, is one of 40 people that Shell supports as social media influencers who provide a way to showcase the company’s gasoline, motor oil and other products by tapping into niche audiences from car enthusiasts to travel junkies and commuters. As Shell’s campaign shows, social media influencers – people with large following on social media who get paid to promote products – are no longer reserved for just 20-somethings posting about sneakers or makeup. Shell is among the few energy companies that have adopted the nontraditional marketing technique that analysts say is particularly important for reaching what may be…
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