The Challenge: More people have been to space or climbed Mount Everest than have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1966 Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway decided to row across the Atlantic, and – despite the 92-day battle against hurricanes, 50ft waves and near-starvation – they thought it such a thrilling test of man’s mettle that they set up the Atlantic Row Challenge. Today the race, sponsored by Talisker Whisky, is taken up every year by daring groups of four- or two-man teams – even some solo rowers.

The Solution


We knew that despite the vastness of 3,000 miles of saltwater, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a quintessentially human story. What is it that drives relatively normal people to want to row across an entire ocean? Let’s be clear: this is no ‘ordinary’ adventure – this perilous crossing pits the contestants against the might of nature. During the course of 40-90 days at sea these rowers would face a challenge that pushed them to the very limits of their mental and physical strength, and exposed them to blisters, rashes, sleep deprivation and sharks.

We met the four-man crew of wounded veterans that made up Row2Recovery, who wanted to prove that they still have much to offer the world. We talked to Row Like a Girl, a quartet of women eager to inspire other women to live their life to the fullest. And we met Matteo Perucchini, who faced the awe-inspiring task of crossing the Atlantic alone with good humour. We wanted to tell the human stories behind what drives these inspirational rowers.


What struck us throughout was the sense that these were people obsessed with the ocean crossing and its many challenges. We wanted to show that inner vision, and so worked with photographer Gemma Day, who took the portraits, and then worked with artist Valentina Verc to create double-exposure imagery of the teams facing the might of the Atlantic.

Alongside the imagery we told the rowers’ stories, in their own words, and published each in print, online and on tablet. We encouraged readers to follow the teams online, and created disruptive display advertising campaigns to continue to raise awareness of the race throughout. We also ran a Times+ competition to visit the Talisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye.

The Results: Top line

  • Awareness of Talisker grew by 400 per cent

  • 360,000 Times readers recalled seeing the campaign. Among those…

  • 63 per cent saw Talisker as a luxury brand – an increase of 34 per cent from before the campaign

  • Consideration doubled to 54 per cent in total … 58 per cent recommended Talisker to others