A big brand invests in its future: BP Chargemaster

I read with interest BP’s recent announcement (1) that it was purchasing Chargemaster, the UK’s largest electric vehicle (EV) charging company. This struck me as a good example of a big brand acquiring a smaller, ‘insurgent’ brand to help it be fit for the future.

The deal has benefits for both the acquiring big brand, and the smaller brand. For BP, it allows the company to step-change progress towards a key strategic goal: “to advance energy transition, developing new offers for customers to reduce their emissions.” And for Chargemaster, as CEO David Martell commented, “The strength and scale of BP will help us maintain our market-leading position.” 

1. Tap into evolving needs

Big brands need to tap into and respond to the evolution of consumer needs. Whilst oil and gas still represents the bulk of its business, BP is also responding the growth in demand for ‘clean energy’ including electric vehicles. 

The number of EVs on British roads remains small today, at 135,000. However, these numbers are predicted to rise rapidly in coming decades: BP estimates that there will be 12 million EVs by 2040.

2. Leverage brand trust & awareness – mental availability

BP can add huge value to the Chargemaster business by leveraging its high brand awareness. This can boost the ‘mental availability’ of Chargemaster, making it more likely to be top-of-mind when people want to charge their EV.

As part of this strategy, the brand architecture solution makes good use of the two brand assets, BP and Chargemaster: 

  • BP is the masterbrand, being the main source of trust, equity and awareness. 
  • Chargemaster has been retained as a sub-brand, allowing BP to tap into the awareness that the charging network has built up. Chargemaster has some distinctiveness and implies superiority via the word ‘master’, whilst  also cueing the functional benefit of car charging.

The two names work well together as a ‘composite’ brand, BP Chargemaster, with a total of five syllables; any more than 4-5 syllables and consumers tend to shorthand a brand name.

3. Drive distribution – physical availability 

Big brands can add huge value to smaller insurgent brands by leveraging their wider distribution network. This increases the ‘physical availability’ of the acquired brand, which is the second key way to drive penetration. 

BP’s UK retail network is well positioned to provide this access with over 1,200 service stations across the country. These will complement the 6,500 public charging points that Chargemaster already runs via its POLAR network.

4. Invest to upgrade the core

Another benefit a big brand can bring to a smaller brand is to increase investment in the core business, to stay ahead of competition. 

A key priority for BP Chargemaster will be investing in the rollout of ultra-fast charging infrastructure, with 150kW rapid chargers delivering 100 miles of range in just 10 minutes. This core renovation should help overcome one of the key barriers to EV adoption: concerns about the time it takes to charge the car during a road journey. 

In conclusion, BP’s acquisition of Chargemaster is good example of how a big brand can make a strategic, pro-active purchase of a smaller brand to help make itself fit for the future.


(1) https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/media/press-releases/bp-to-acquire-uks-largest-electric-vehicle-charging-company.html