A hundred years after Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition, Patrick Bergel, the great-grandson of Shackleton, along with Hyundai Motor, took on Shackleton’s unfinished dream. Bergel completed what his great grandfather started over 100 years ago by achieving the first crossing of the coldest and driest continent on earth by car. The 30-day expedition was facilitated by Hyundai and undertaken in a 2.2-litre diesel Hyundai Santa Fe with limited modifications. The expedition was also made into a short film by Hyundai Motor.

“Hyundai ‘Shackleton’s Return’ – Main film” (video below) is a remarkable example of great video storytelling. So, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the primary version of the video has more than 100 million views on the Hyundai Worldwide YouTube channel, a second version has another 6.5 million views on the Hyundai Facebook page, and a third version has another 1.5 million views on the Hyundai Australia YouTube channel.

Hyundai: Video Storytelling Lessons

There are several lessons that video marketers can learn from Hyundai’s “Shackleton Returns.” The first is this: Great storytelling starts with having a great story worth retelling. So, instead of beginning with Hyundai’s vision that people can go anywhere, at any time by automobile, the brand began with the heroic story of Shackleton from one hundred years ago.

Shackleton’s heroic Trans-Antarctic journey of 1914-17 was “Plan B.” Having been beaten to the Pole by Roald Amundsen, Shackleton tried to become the first to cross the continent. His ship sank in pack ice, but the heroic explorer and five men sailed 800 miles over open, stormy sea to South Georgia, from where a successful rescue could be launched. It was that spirit of endurance shown by Shackleton that inspired Hyundai Motor to visit the Antarctic and enable a member of Shackleton’s family to complete what had been started over 100 years ago.

And this is also a story told well. The 5:13-long video opens with a small advertisement that appeared in a London newspaper in 1913. It reads: “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small-wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackleton, 4 Burlington st.” In other words, the backstory hooks you from the start.

The video goes on to tell how Bergel made history by becoming the first to drive a passenger car across the Antarctic. The route traversed the continent from Union Camp to McMurdo and back again, completing the journey that Shackleton began over 100 years earlier. The 30-day expedition, facilitated by Hyundai Motor, saw Bergel and a small team take on almost 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) of icy terrain in bitter conditions. They not only had to cover extreme distances at temperatures down to minus 18-degrees Fahrenheit (minus 28-degrees Celsius) but also had to plot new paths on floating ice caps that have never been travelled by wheeled vehicle before.

On the Hyundai website, Bergel, a technology entrepreneur, says, “I’m not a polar explorer; I’m an indoor guy. So, it was a big cultural shift – and it was quite something to have been the first to do this. Getting to the South Pole was a special moment. The fact that this was a place my great grandfather tried to get to more than once and I was there, it felt like a genuine connection. What we did though was one thousandth as hard as what they did. You know, no comparison – modern appurtenances, comparative luxury. But it was an amazing journey, and an amazing achievement.”

On another page on the Hyundai Wordwide website, Bergel added, “I finally fulfilled the 100-year-old dream with a round trip of 5,800 km, a 30-day itinerary, a one year preparation period, and 100 years in the waiting, transcending the limits of time and space.”

Now, that’s a story worth telling. And Scott Noh, Head of Overseas Marketing Group at Hyundai Motor Company, says, “We were aware of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s story and as a company felt a resonance with his courage and pioneering spirit. Our film celebrates this spirit and through Patrick, his Great Grandson, completes his dream to cross Antarctica – just a hundred years later.”

Other Examples of Brand Storytelling

Of course, Hyundai isn’t the first brand to tap into historic events from 100 years ago to tell a powerful story today. “Sainsbury’s OFFICIAL Christmas 2014 Ad” was published by Sainsbury’s on Nov. 12, 2014. The video, which is 3 minutes and 40 seconds long, has over 19 million views. Inspired by real events from 100 years earlier, Sainsbury’s Christmas advert also tells a story worth retelling. Made in partnership with The Royal British Legion, it commemorates the extraordinary events of Christmas Day, 1914, when the guns fell silent and two armies met in no-man’s land, sharing gifts – and even playing football together.

But, Hyundai appears to be the first – or at least it’s the most successful – automotive brand to courageously go far beyond the limited vision of seeing social video platforms as just additional places to put re-purposed television commercials that were created for the Super Bowl audience. The only other video by an automotive brand that even comes close to the powerful emotions triggered by Hyundai’s “Shackleton’s Return” is “Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split feat. Van Damme (Live Test),” which features something “historic,” although it isn’t inspired by history.

Great video storytelling by “Shackleton Returns” drove Hyundai to the #1 Automotive Brand Property in May according to the Tubular Labs industry leaderboards.  Now, that’s a great story worth retelling at the next meeting to plan your company’s or client’s next video campaign.