Nissan is sponsoring Lance Armstrong and making the cycling star central to its campaign for the Leaf electric car. The effort also brings Armstrong into an expanded Nissan alliance with Rodale, Inc. called "Master the SHIFT_" and now in its fourth year.
The effort for the car, which goes on sale in late fall, also involves sponsorship of such marquee athletic events as the Boston and New York marathons and the Tour of California bicycle race. Nissan also joins Radio Shack and brands like Nike and Trek as supporters of Armstrong's Team Radio Shack bid for the 2010 Tour de France, which runs July 3-25 this year.
The "Master the SHIFT_" effort with Rodale, intended to reach amateur athletes, fans and active-lifestyle consumers, puts Nissan Leaf interactive exhibits and Nissan branding at 18 national running and cycling events this year. Central to the program are three "masters" -- including Armstrong, who will appear in ads in Rodale's active-lifestyle pubs. The masters and their coaches and team members will also blog, tweet, make appearances, and do tutorial Web videos and documentaries. The other two masters are Ryan Hall, Olympic distance runner, and yoga expert Tara Stiles.
Nissan says all "Master the SHIFT_" content will be delivered through a customized, multimedia Facebook page: Facebook.com/MastertheShift.
Rodale publications in which ads will appear include Bicycling, Men's Health, Mountain Bike, Runner's World, Running Times and Women's Health. Their coaches, trainers and nutritionists will add content on how to become a better athlete.
J. Schaffer, Nissan brand integration manager, tells Marketing Daily that Armstrong's team approached Nissan early last year about forming a partnership. "As we started talking a little deeper, we explored the possibilities and it made sense," he says, adding that Armstrong will be involved with the fourth-quarter launch of marketing activity for the car beyond the confines of the Rodale Press/Nissan association.
"It's much broader," says Schaffer, adding that the Nissan name is on Team Radio Shack jerseys and that Nissan provides support vehicles to Armstrong's team as well. "We are a key partner," he says, adding that Nissan will also work with co-sponsor Radio Shack to cross-promote the team.
He says getting involved with the Boston and New York marathons makes sense because of their global reach. "One of the challenges is we don't have many Leafs in the U.S. right now, so we have had to come up with clever ways of showcasing what the product is all about at these events," he says, adding that in an event last week in Seattle, the company used an interactive kiosk about Leaf that includes a giant projection of the vehicle that one can manipulate to change the vehicle's exterior color scheme.
Schaffer says pre-orders have been brisk, with 15,000 consumers plunking down $99 to hold a reservation for the car. "We did a tour early in the year where we took a Leaf concept around the country to build buzz. It generated a lot of hand-raisers. So we are looking at doing a ride-and-drive experience next," he says.