Churchill Insurance Company

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Churchill Insurance Company
Type Wholly owned subsidiary
Industry Financial services
Founded 1989 (1989)
Founders Martin Long
Headquarters Churchill Court, Bromley, UK
Products Insurance
Parent Direct Line Group
Website www.churchill.com

Churchill is a UK insurance company based in Bromley, London. Founded in 1989 as one of the country’s first direct car insurance companies, the company has expanded to offer a range of general insurance products. Churchill is part of the Direct Line Group.

Churchill is notable for its advertising that features a talking nodding dog mascot.

History[edit]

Churchill Insurance was launched by founder Martin Long in June 1989 as a direct car insurance provider. Long was backed by Winterthur, at that time a Credit Suisse subsidiary. Home insurance was added to the Churchill product range a year later.

It began the use of a bulldog as the company's mascot in 1994. A year later Churchill launched its first website and a credit card. It also became the first UK insurer to offer motor insurance estimates via interactive media kiosks. In 1996 Churchill was awarded Investors in People and ISO9002 accreditation. This was also the year that the nodding dog was introduced to its advertising. A new product was also launched in the shape of breakdown cover.

Churchill Insurance was named in Britain’s Best Employers for the first time in 1997, the year the company moved to its current headquarters, Churchill Court. Travel insurance and pet insurance products were also introduced. Motorcycle insurance broker Devitt Insurance was acquired in 1999. The company also launched its first e-commerce facility, enabling online car and home insurance quotes. The following year it acquired the Churchill.com domain name for online activity and acquired NIG.

Churchill bought Prudential’s insurance business in 2002 before being purchased by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group for £1.1bn the following year. This brought Churchill into RBS' insurance division alongside Direct Line – another company Long had been involved in launching.[1]

Following the bailout of RBS by the UK government in 2008, the EU demanded that certain Group assets be sold off, including the company's insurance division. Churchill became part of the new Direct Line Group in early 2012, which was created ahead of a divestment which was completed in 2014.[2]

Services[edit]

Today Churchill offers a range of general insurance products, underwritten by U K Insurance: car, home, pet and travel insurance and breakdown cover in association with Green Flag. They also offer life insurance in association with Legal & General and motorbike insurance, arranged through Devitt Insurance Brokers.

One commercial product is available through Churchill: van insurance, arranged and administered by Brightside Insurance Services.

Awards[edit]

Churchill has won numerous Your Money Awards for its products:

Best Online Home and Contents Insurance Provider - 2000,[3] 2004,[4] 2007[5]

Best Motor Insurance Provider - 2000,[3] 2001,[6] 2002,[7] 2003,[8] 2006[9] (joint winner with Direct Line), 2008[10]

Best Online Motor Insurance Provider - 2000,[3] 2001,[6] 2002,[7] 2003,[8] 2006,[9] 2007[5]

Best Travel Insurance Provider - 2001[6]

Best Online Pet Insurance Provider - 2004,[4] 2009,[11] 2010[12]

Best Home and Contents Insurance Provider - 2005,[13] 2008[10]

Best Pet Insurance Provider - 2008[10]

Sponsorships[edit]

In October 1993 signed a three-year deal to sponsor the World Indoor Bowls Championship.

In 2000, Churchill became the shirt sponsor of Crystal Palace FC,[14] the football team Martin Long supported and would eventually share the chairmanship of.[15]

Advertising and the Churchill dog[edit]

In 1994 it was decided that the company needed a mascot to represent the Churchill brand and differentiate it from the former British prime minister, Winston Churchill. A staff competition led to the adoption of a bulldog. The bulldog is a well-known symbol of British identity - appropriate for a company with that name. The first Churchill dog was a real bulldog called Lucas. The company first used a nodding dog in 1996.[16] Churchill began selling nodding dog characters in 1997 and the character is now synonymous with the brand name.[17]

In the company's TV advertising the computer-animated Churchill dog used to be asked whether he could save people money on their insurance to which he responded with his famous catchphrase: "oh yes!". The catchphrase is believed to be an impersonation of Potter the janitor (played by Deryck Guyler) from the 1970s TV series Please Sir!.[18]

Churchill was voiced by Bob Mortimer. Older ads had Mortimer's voice responding to questions posed by his comedy partner Vic Reeves, but Reeves was removed from the ads after he was convicted of drink driving in 2005.[19]

A Churchill hot air balloon was unveiled in 2004 and was the UK’s largest special shaped hot air balloon.[citation needed] It measured 34 metres wide by 24 metres high and stretched wide and far enough to accommodate 50,000 real bulldogs or 1.3 million nodding dogs. The balloon appears at numerous events across the country, notably the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta and the London Marathon.

In 2006 the high profile "Challenge Churchill" campaign was launched, involving the people of Britain challenging the brand mascot to find them cheaper car and home insurance. A new look website went live in October 2008. The following year the company adopted a new strapline: "Count on Churchill". Television adverts were launched featuring the Churchill dog alongside celebrities including Melanie Sykes and Roy Walker.

In recent years talking soft toys have been added to the range of Churchill merchandise[20] and the character has also launched his own page on social networking site Facebook.[21] In 2009 Churchill starred in 22 pantomimes around the UK.[22] In the summer of 2010 he made appearances at Pontins holiday camps before returning for his second panto run.

More recently, Martin Clunes featured in Churchill's TV campaigns until he was 'sacked' after being banned from driving.[23] Clunes was replaced by Dawn French in the firm's TV ads.[24]

Controversy[edit]

Churchill - along with sister company Direct Line - was fined £2.17m by the FSA in 2012 after being found guilty of altering complaints files.[25]

In 2013 Churchill received media attention after it appealed a High Court judgement in the case of Bethany Probert, who - in 2009 when she was 13-years old - was hit by a car driven by one of the insurer's customers whilst walking along a country lane. Churchill's appeal centred on their insistence that the teenager had been walking on the wrong side of the road, listening to music and wasn't wearing a high visibility jacket.[26] The company eventually paid 90% of the claim. [27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andrew Cave. "Royal Bank buys Churchill for £1.1 billion". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 June 2003. 
  2. ^ "RBS set to make £1bn from remaining Direct Line stake". BBC. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Award winners 2000". Your Money. 
  4. ^ a b "Award winners 2004". Your Money. 
  5. ^ a b "Award winners 2007". Your Money. 
  6. ^ a b c "Award winners 2001". Your Money. 
  7. ^ a b "Award winners 2002". Your Money. 
  8. ^ a b "Award winners 2003". Your Money. 
  9. ^ a b "Award winners 2006". Your Money. 
  10. ^ a b c "Award winners 2008". Your Money. 
  11. ^ "Award winners 2009". Your Money. 
  12. ^ "Award winners 2010". Your Money. 
  13. ^ "Award winners 2005". Your Money. 
  14. ^ "Crystal Palace FC to use Churchill logo". Post. Retrieved 24 August 2000. 
  15. ^ Daniel Jones. "Long live Crystal Palace". Croydon Advertiser. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  16. ^ About us Churchill Insurance
  17. ^ Kerry McQueeney. "Oh no, no, no, no, no! Teenage pupils 'believe Winston Churchill is TV advert dog'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  18. ^ Ross Wagman. "Oh yes, it's Deryck Guyler". Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  19. ^ Driving ban for comic Vic Reeves BBC News
  20. ^ Buy a Churchill dog Churchill Dog Shop
  21. ^ "Churchill". Facebook. 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2012. 
  22. ^ Churchill in panto Churchill
  23. ^ Daniel Farey-Jones. "Churchill drops Martin Clunes after driving ban". Marketing Magazine. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  24. ^ Gillian West. [1](http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1160371/churchill-drops-martin-clunes-driving-ban) "Dawn French to join Churchill the dog in the latest series of ads for the insurance provider"]. The Drum. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  25. ^ Jill Treanor. "Churchill and Direct Line fined £2.1m by FSA". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 
  26. ^ Emma Reynolds. "Churchill appeals against '£5m insurance payout' to brain-damaged girl, 16, because she wasn't wearing a high-vis jacket when she was run over". Daily Mail. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  27. ^ "Insurers of motorist who left a teenage girl brain damaged argue victim was partly to blame". Slater & Gordon Solicitors. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 

External links[edit]