Shell is hiring staff to promote online games, sponsoring influencers to race cars on branded virtual courses and backing athletes to inspire “the next generation” on Instagram, as the oil and gas major seeks to burnish its brand among a younger generation of consumers.
“I am fuelled by the ocean,” Sage Erickson, a two-time US open surfing champion, tells her 310,000 Instagram followers in a Shell-sponsored video posted last month in which she discusses her career and desire to “instil in the next generation” values such as personal fulfilment and community spirit.
The campaign is one of several recent initiatives by fossil fuel companies on platforms popular among young people. Climate campaigners want regulators to crack down on this type of advertising in the same way they have for tobacco and alcohol companies.
Erickson, who has also promoted ocean sustainability on her social media channels, does not mention Shell or its products in the video. Neither she nor other influencers in Shell’s “Performance Unbound” campaign responded to requests for comment.
Shell recently advertised for a “head of digital amplification platforms” to oversee its social media channels and “integrate gaming and immersive experiences” into its strategies, partnering with Meta, YouTube, X, TikTok and LinkedIn. The Financial Times reported last year that Shell was hiring a manager for its TikTok channel, a platform used predominantly by young people.
In a campaign this summer called Ultimate Road Trips, Shell worked with gamers to create customised online racecourses — complete with Shell petrol stations — within the video game Fortnite. It then sponsored influencers to upload videos of themselves playing the game to the streaming platform Twitch. Instagram ads have also promoted a Shell mobile driving game, available on Apple’s AppStore.