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Nissan Concept 20-23 Launch

Posted by Sarah Threlfall

How it Began

In April this year, I received an exciting but fairly innocent looking email about a ‘behind the scenes’ event at Nissan’ European design HQ in Paddington. Their PR agency, Performance Communications, were creating a compelling media event to celebrate the centre’s 20th Anniversary and wanted to partner with Brightspace to build 5 or 6 activity stations to allow the journalists to get ‘hands on’ with the different areas and then provide some lunch for 30-40 people. They were going to have dinner, stay overnight, then visit Nissan’s Technical centre up near Milton Keynes before flying home.

Oh, and they might have a launch but we weren’t to worry about that at the moment.

What Actually Happened

This is what we have just pulled off in London on Monday….

Press Coverage

The Guardian: Nissan vows to go all-electric by 2030

Unveiling Concept 20-23

Nissan Motor Corporation 

Brightspace Events – Nissan Motor Corporation

Our unstoppable and unflappable Event Director, Helen Wildgoose, and her team worked with over 20 different suppliers, including the PHENOMENALpeople at Chameleon Live event and Easy Gourmet caterers to pull off, without a doubt, the biggest, most exhilarating event I personally have ever been involved in – let alone at the helm of my own agency.

The launch element slowly gained traction throughout the wonderful summer of planning meetings by the canal in Paddington; and before we knew it, we were revealing the groundbreaking new Nissan Concept 20-23 with Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s President & CEO, plus Guillaume Cartier, Chairman of Nissan in the region, and numbers were growing (and changing) every day.

Oh, and did I mention they wanted to do it on a barge?

Their daring vision was led by Neil Reeve, Manager, Product Communications at Nissan AMIEO and was driven by Nissan’s founding principle of “Dare to do what others don’t”. I certainly think most manufacturers wouldn’t be brave enough to float a model that was only completed on Friday evening, down the Grand Union Canal in Central London and into a live show for 120 VIPs and journalists on a Monday lunchtime.

What we Did

Whilst all that was going on, we took the very functional, incredibly busy facilities within NDE’s “Rotunda” building and transformed them over the weekend into a slick and high level event venue operation. This would have been impossible without the unfailing support and tireless work from Dean Claridge and Simon Fleming at NDE who worked for weeks before we even arrived on site to prepare the building.

Oh, and did I mention that the CEO’s participation was a relatively late addition to the event? Late in July, he was in a meeting where the idea was being discussed.He liked the audacity of the idea so much that he decided to adjust his schedule in order to be there. to

We installed wi-fi, carpet, toilets, bins, furniture, draping and power stations. We built a kitchen, a staff lounge, a stage, a conference space and all under strict security lockdown due to the highly confidential nature of the work at NDE.

I learnt a LOT about cranes, hoists and towpaths, and model construction and canals and the complex patchwork ownership of land in London. I talked a lot about stage loading and reinforcements and air compressors and generators. And now know just how many permits and RAMS and meetings it takes to do anything outside that interacts with the public. With massive thanks to impeccable construction plans from Sam Parkins at Chameleon Live and also to Helen McCabe and Stephen Chaston from Harrier Safety who bolstered our expertise and supported flawlessly throughout.

We planned 7 different events in excruciating detail, that were never going to happen – as we needed so many different weather scenarios – and thankfully, the one that was called on Sunday and then executed on the day was Plan A; glorious sunshine and a once in a lifetime moment as the car floated effortlessly (!!!!) into view at the exact moment Guillaume Cartier first mentioned Nissan’s “birthday surprise” to the assembled media.

Improving the Impact

Although it was a stretch at times due to the lead times and highly specialised nature of some elements, we also stayed as close to our ‘Planet First” ethos as we could; suggesting reusable alternatives at every stage including spending slightly more on slightly less that will then come into use throughout NDE in the future. Including fairtrade cotton aprons, reusable shoe covers and using branded event stock from previous events instead of creating new.

We sourced biodegradable ponchos, protective gloves and wet wipes as well as working closely with our preferred suppliers for catering and AV production who we know have strong recycling and reuse policies in place.

The set panels were all reused and reskinned for the event and, wherever possible, we used items that were made from recycled plastic.

We limited single use catering items to the bare minimum; and that we did use was all fully biodegradable and disposed of accordingly. My favourite wildflower seeded paper wrist bands made another appearance for crew, staff and VIP access bands so I’m looking forward to watching them bloom next year.

Frustratingly, we attempted to donate waste food to a local homeless shelter as we’d been careful to keep all packaging and allergen information and labels; but they were unable to collect it. This is definitely something I’ll do more research into next time, to make sure we have a clear plan in advance rather than reacting on the day and falling at the last hurdle.

I am still returning items that were unused; to make sure they can go back into the supply chain and will also hopefully find homes for various used but very good condition items either via the Delegate Wranglers Facebook page or Event Recycle.

The big sticking point was the carpet which I had no plan for; so that is going to be my massive learning takeaway. If anyone has any recommendations for more ethical suppliers, materials or waste management around used carpet, I’d love to hear from you.

The benefit of a central London location, meant that we only laid on minimal airport transfers as most delegates were encouraged to use public transport to get into central London and we also used mass transportation between sites on a coach rather than smaller, individual vehicles. Delegate numbers per country were also kept low which further reduced the travel impact and anyone travelling from France came via the Eurostar rather than air.

Progress definitely, not perfection, but we’ll take that.

The Outcome

Understandably, the press coverage has, so far, been incredible. The CEO used the opportunity that we had created to announce that from now, all Nissan vehicles launched in Europe will be electric vehicles and that by 2030, all Nissan vehicles sold in Europe will be EVs.

Thanks to the CEO’s participation, extra coverage of Nissan’s important message about their commitment to electric vehicles was secured thanks to broadcast interviews with the BBC and CNBC during the event, as well as leading articles being featured in the business sections of most national newspapers and wall to wall influencer content across all the major platforms.


One of my favourite quotes from Nelson Mandela features on our giveaways and I can’t quite believe how appropriate it is right now; “Everything feels impossible. Until it is done”

And it is ONLY made possible by the trusted friends and colleagues who stand by my side in life and during these crazy events:

Helen Wildgoose, AJ Mills, Sam Parkins, Emily Higham, Sarah Stanyer, Jo Randall, Charlotte Orton, Robin Dixon, Gaynor Evans, Eden Prince, Ineska Dabrowski

But most importantly, and the final word, has to go to Sam Mercer from Performance Communications. This guy was running at a million miles an hour from start to finish, the central cog of a HUGE machine that was driving and pulling in every possible direction, every possible minute of the day. He was calm, efficient, available, professional and the greatest ally I could possibly wish for. Who also repeatedly said “I’m not an events person” – based on what you’ve just achieved, Sam, we beg to differ.

Sarah Threlfall

Sarah's worked in the corporate event industry across hotels, global event agencies and now at Brightspace for over 25 years and has been lucky enough to deliver some jaw dropping delivered events from Antigua to Zambia. She now leads the agency and is heavily involved with all the projects and is wildly enthusiastic about every client and every event; relishing the challenge to get under their skin and deliver real value in their event strategy. Health and well being are central to her life so she prioritises all sorts of activity with running as her first love and most recently, joining a ladies cricket team. She's also very likely to be found on the touchline of junior football / rugby and cricket matches as well as indulging her love of live theatre. (p.s. as 2 separate hobbies; her kids would disown her if she were bursting into song / bringing out the jazz hands on the sidelines!)