Strange Car Marketing Tie-Ins

Sometimes in our line of work we get invites to participate on events that don’t quite make sense on paper. So when Subaru asked us if we wanted to go watch an Ironman race in Mt Tremblant with them we went, “whaaa?”

We did go (mostly because they let us drive a BRZ up to the mountain), and it got us thinking about all the strange ways car companies try to win our hearts and minds. Some of them, like the Subaru/Ironman deal make sense after you think about them, some are downright perfect, and some are thoroughly weird.

One company even sponsored Linkin Park, in a fashion.

Subaru and Ironman

“Look in the carpark,” Joe Felstein, Director of Marketing for Subaru Canada told us when I raised the question with him. “Every second car here is a Subaru.” He was right, it seemed like the number of bike-rack adorned and triathlon-sticker-clad Subarus was massive in comparison to the other makes. But then again, that might be because Subaru uses the events to sell directly to customers.

Subaru tracks the success of their involvement by offering a unique factory rebate exclusively to Ironman competitors, and says the rebate claims number in the hundreds each year.

But it might also be because the active, outdoorsy and robust lifestyle of an Ironman athlete or any other triathlete genuinely correspond to Subaru’s outdoor-focused ethos. Need to carry your stuff up a cottage road to go training? You could do worse.

Ironman competitors are rugged, dogged, determined athletes who’ll go anywhere and last forever. Sounds about right for a car company I guess.

Kia and Soccer

Did you know that Kia sponsored the Toronto Football Club in the LEAGUE soccer? That in itself is not too surprising, soccer (AKA football, AKA not rugby) is very, very popular. And athletes and cars are good matches ideologically what with all the “performance oriented” stuff. What’s weird is that Kia also sponsors the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact. It’s a bit like when your parents tell you that “we don’t play favourites in our house” – even though we all know it’s not true.

The round ball is clearly popular in Seoul. Kia also sponsors the FIFA World Cup giving it valuable reach courtesy of the world’s most popular game. Rugby is still better.

Honda Campus All-Star Challenge

Hey, it’s not all athletics. Honda’s Campus All-Star Challenge is a type of quizbowl – a specific quiz contest for teams from a selection of colleges across the USA. How that ties into their branding methodology we can’t quite figure out – maybe Honda is just doing something nice?

Or, maybe Honda is making up for the 2012 Honda Civic Tour during which they exposed millions to Linkin Park.

Nissan Shark Week

Like Sharks? So does Nissan! The Rogue marque (get it?) recently recommitted to another year sponsoring the Discovery channel’s most iconic production: a week-long celebration of the ocean's most misunderstood and terrifying creatures.

Chevrolet and Manchester United

Perhaps the most famous of all football soccer clubs in the world, it’s no surprise a car company would want to get on board. But Chevrolet doesn’t really feel like the right fit.

The sponsorship deal really backfired when the American maker thought free cars would get the stars of Man U driving the bowtie. You know, instead of the several-hundred thousand dollar rigs they already drive after accidentally spilling a fraction of their first pay cheque all over the nearest Land Rover, Lamborghini or Ferrari dealership…

Mercedes-Benz and Hugo Boss

Mercedes-Benz is big on fashion and style. Their sponsorships of several international fashion festivals are aimed at boosting the already-robust connection between the three-pointed star and the concept of luxury, high-end goods.

When the bosses of Mercedes-Benz and Hugo Boss stood together on stage to talk about their shared goals and ideologies, though, the stifled chuckles in the audience were broken by one lone voice… “Yeah, they both want to sell to rich people!”

The partnership makes sense – after all, style and quality are hallmarks of both brands’ identies. But the link between the two companies is also so abstract that the cynics see it as an open target.

Audi World Cup Skiing

Skiing is cool. Snow falls on mountains, people slide down the slippery stuff on sticks and try not to get killed by trees and rocks and cliffs and hypothermia. Sometimes those people race each other for fun, fame and money. Audi puts up a good deal of that money and this is one instance of a sponsorship partnership made in heaven.

After all, when you want to get up to the top of said snow-covered mountain (or part way up it to the lift) you need a good AWD system. Audi has that.

When you pull up at the club or cabin post-ski to sip mulled cider with your friends you need a bit of style, panache and prestige: Audi has that too. Bravo Audi!

Volvo and Ocean Race

Without going anywhere near the whole “Vikings like boats” bit, we should take a look at Volvo’s sponsorship of the Volvo Ocean Race.

What you do see, is you get a bunch of blokes on multi-million-dollar boats and get them to race from Spain to Gothenburg in Sweden.

“So What? That’s just a couple of hundred kilometres.”

No, the long way. The really long way! Via South Africa, Abu Dhabi, China, New Zealand. Then around the bottom of South America and up to Brazil up to the USA, over to Portgual, up to France and then up to Gothenburg. A casual 38,739 nautical miles. Which is like a regular mile, but wet.

“Geez, they must really prove the strength of those Volvo engines!”

Nah mate, no engines. Sails. Big ones. On 65-foot boats with big winged keels and an eight-person crew, plus one reporter. All-women crews get to have 11 sailors. All of whom sleep – lol. They don’t sleep. Why does Volvo sponsor this? Who knows?! Who cares?! It’s awesome.

Toyota and Violins

Toyota sponsors motorsport, a robotics fair and a host of other high-tech things that seem well-matched to the brand. But someone there also likes centuries-old string instruments because the maker of some of the world’s best-selling cars also sponsors the International Fritz Kreisler Competition. Held every four years, (or five apparently depending on if they remember to hold it or not) the violin competition pits fiddlers against each other in an epic battle of the bows.

So why does Toyota like violins so much? Some say a well-driven Corolla plays the Flight of the Bumblebee with its exhaust, some say Akio Toyoda has a crush on Vanessa-Mae. I don’t blame him.

Ford – Largest St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York

But if you really, really want to party one should eschew the stuffy confines of a Viennese music hall in favour of the exciting, never-asleep streets of New York. Preferably on the 17th of March. That day is St. Patricks’ Day and New York is home to the largest of all St. Patrick’s Day parades. Sponsored by party-animal, F-150 building, aluminum-loving Ford Motor Company.

And that’s how the Fiesta became available in green. True story*.

*Not True.

Funny things car companies do to win your hearts and minds. 9/9/2015 6:30:40 AM