BP: The Advocacy Index


Team: Ogilvy


My first social media team and core project at Ogilvy was like a bootcamp in crisis and reputation management.

BP continued to face reputation challenges in the years following its Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In Fall 2012 — two years after the spill — BP America’s social media presence largely consisted of comments and messages from active detractors. These often included trolls and people who only commented with profanity. BP largely replied with canned statements.

BP America then worked with Ogilvy on public relations and communications efforts, including social media content.


  • Conduct and measure social media efforts to improve BP's brand reputation
  • Increase public support on social media for BP


What really drives people to express their passion for a brand through advocacy in social media? What builds a "passion brand" ?

Ogilvy's research – the most comprehensive study of global social advocacy to date (2013) – analyzed millions of social brand mentions to better understand advocacy for brands online.

The data – which included about 7 million mentions of 20+ brands and 8 feature films across 4 countries including China, Brazil, UK and US – provided us with insights and clues on how to build brand advocacy.


Ogilvy took a series of steps, putting measured processes in place to ensure BP America would stay ahead of its competitors while building a community to support the brand again. This included the development of a proprietary research tool called the Advocacy Index. (Links 1, 2, 3)

Through research including social listening, we discovered that BP’s steadfast commitment to the Gulf and American energy had developed a sense of pride in BP employees.

Employees and their family members were actively defending and advocating for the company, especially on Facebook. While many BP employees do not self-identify as such on their personal social accounts, they outwardly shared their employee pride in comments to BP America on Facebook, and we needed to craft content that would bring them to the forefront.

Focusing on Facebook, where the majority of our advocacy was being generated, we created content to connect with BP employees and the pride they feel in their daily work to help fuel America. Whether by sharing a photo of a Gulf rig or designing a graphic to highlight offshore workers’ unique helicopter commute, we told stories that resonated with employees and prompted them to engage.

One of the core functions of my team was also social media management and response. We responded to a wide range of comments and messages (many of them negative), and also hid, deleted or blocked troll/spam accounts.


  • At the time, I was really skeptical that all of this activity would do much of anything for the company. But gradually over the course of several months, we saw that our content and community management demonstrably shifted the tide between advocates and detractors, creating a safer space for discussion on BP's social media channels.
  • The company began to be viewed less as an evil corporate entity or oil titan, and more of a leading energy/technology company. We were no longer focused on reactive damage control, but instead proactively shifting public opinion. Through content analysis and social listening, our content topics, design and media spend were continuously refined.
  • Content and community management resulting in BP employees coming to its defense. They would share personal anecdotes about working at a specific location, or with the company in general. There were many times where BP employees replied to negative comments faster than our team did.
  • Our employee-focused content strategy resulted in the most engaging organic Facebook post for BP America to date (at the time), a time-lapse video of BP’s Houma Heliport that garnered 170,000+ impressions, 6,800+ video views and nearly 2,000 engagements.
  • As measured by Ogilvy’s Advocacy Index, public support for BP in social media jumped 11% and advocacy increased to 7.3% of total conversations.
  • The overall approach was extended to uncover insights in BP America’s ongoing content – both general and the company’s Olympic sponsorships. In a similar vein, we later worked with BP to reach political stakeholders (e.g. politicians and journalists) with relevant content.
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