In some aspects, Nissan's involvement with sports is a bit different than the kinds of activities one might expect. For the past five years, however, the company has partnered with Rodale, Inc. to market to people who don't just watch sports, but lace up bicycle cleats and running shoes and participate in them.
The Rodale program has put Nissan at grassroots events at races, given its sponsorship of performance clinics featuring Nissan "Masters" (experts in different areas of performance and health) and given it advertising and custom content real estate in Rodale's personal health and performance publications.
But changes are afoot this year, including a change to the title of the program itself: In years past, the event has been called "Master the Shift," reflecting Nissan's "Shift_" positioning. But since it left "Shift" in the dust last year, replacing it with "Innovation for All" (timed with the launch of the Leaf electric car), Nissan has also renamed the personal-sports program "Innovation for Endurance."
The renamed effort launches this week with Nissan's sponsorship of -- and presence at -- the Amgen Tour of California bicycle road race.
Under the larger program, Nissan will have a presence at a dozen major races around the country -- including the New York City Marathon -- to promote the Leaf and other vehicles. There will also be a Facebook community page that includes a blog and video posts about motivation, training, gear, health, lifestyle, and the environment. And Nissan will launch a mobile application with health and fitness content, content from the Facebook page, a "Nissan Innovator" series of workouts, and social sharing capabilities.
Also, Nissan will run a sweepstakes program that allows consumers to submit fitness tips or enter for a chance to win a Leaf vehicle. In addition to print and online campaign in Rodale brands, including Bicycling, Runner's World and Running Times, Nissan will get dedicated areas in which to run custom content.
"About eight months ago we launched the 'Innovation for All' ad campaign, so that is on the forefront of all we want to do," says J Schaffer, senior marketing manager at Nissan. "When the campaign launched, we had already begun the fourth year of 'Master the Shift.' Now with the fifth year starting, it makes sense to change."
Schaffer says the eight-day Amgen Tour of California gets some two million fans watching along the route, and is broadcast around the world. "This race and the New York Marathon are key in terms overall reach," he says.
Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's cycling coach, continues as one of the health and performance gurus whose advice will be part of the campaign, and featured on the Web site and mobile app. The other athletes are Ryan Hall, an Olympian and the fastest American marathoner; Tara Stiles, author of Slim Calm Sexy and founder of Strala Yoga in New York City; and cyclist Levi Leipheimer who has won the Tour of California three times.
Schaffer says the primary focus of the effort is the Leaf electric car because participants and observers of cycling and running events are affluent and environmentally aware. Nissan is also official vehicle of Team Radio Shack, which is participating. "We have several Leaf cars at the Tour of California [along with other Nissan vehicles]; it's a great opportunity to tell people what the car is all about how it works."