Subaru Midwifes Legend Rebirth In Multi-Part Campaign

Subaru is creating a multi-tiered, three-part campaign for its Impreza lineup of cars that comprises a three-episode manga-style adventure called "Rebirth of the Legend" and a sponsorship and advertising commitment to X Games 13, in August--both supporting the Impreza WRX--and a more mainstream late-summer campaign for the tamer Impreza 2.5i.

Kevin Mayer, director of advertising for Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Subaru, says the three efforts are intended to target--respectively--a "manchild" (Subaru's term) demographic of 20-something import-car buffs, a more broadly defined demo of extreme-sports and active-lifestyle enthusiasts, and a general market audience of men and women.

What all three efforts have in common, per Mayer, is a message about all-wheel-drive (which all Subarus have), engineering and action. The second episode of the "Return of the Legend" video series, which will be hosted within, has an animated WRX romping through a jungle. The central character "tames" it with the keys to the car that he happens to have, although he isn't sure just how he got them.



Mayer says the point is to celebrate the Japanese heritage of the WRX, and, by extension, of all things Subaru. "It's an iconic vehicle, redesigned really for the first time, so this gives us an opportunity to bring it to life."

The "Rebirth of a Legend" viral and broadcast video is aimed squarely at the tuner crowd--an ethnically diverse, bi-coastal demo, says Mayer, which is into modifying import cars and/or attending events like the nationwide "Hot Import Nights." They are a cross between nightclub and auto show, where tuners display their souped-up and modified compacts in an environment suffused with music, merchandise and gear.

"We are going to be everywhere in that genre," says Mayer, adding that the media plan is "very vertical," with "Return of the Legend"-themed ads in 17 magazines, including tuner, auto and motocross books as well as in men's lifestyle, music and electronic gaming books. The only remotely mainstream magazine in the bunch is ESPN The Magazine.

Meanwhile, the company will launch a separate campaign associated with Subaru's legacy in off-road rally racing and aimed at reaching a broader active-lifestyle audience. This year, Subaru replaced Saturn as top-tier sponsor of ESPN's X Games, the yearly summer extreme-sports stadium series that includes sports like Supercross, Motocross, and BMX riding, in addition to off-road rally racing.

"What we are doing with the X Games is leveraging WRX and Subaru's rally cred into a brand-performance campaign that we will run in ESPN coverage of the X Games," he says. "We will run a performance spot throughout the games in addition to the 'Legend' manga-style campaign, to talk to both the tuner crowd, as well as a more broadly defined male, 20 to 30, into extreme sports and outdoor activities," says Mayer.

A supporting print ad in X Games programs and elsewhere will show the car in flight, with copy reading, "Ass-whoopin'. Another in the long list of standard Subaru features."

He says Subaru's association with X Games, which launches Aug. 4, will be supported regionally with X Games creative at dealerships. There will also be a ride-and-drive event in Los Angeles this summer."

While rally racing has a large following outside the U.S., Nascar, motocross and supercross dominate within. But Subaru may have found a key to building a crossover audience from among dirt-bike aficionados. In late 2005, Subaru signed Motocross and Supercross star Travis Pastrana to lead Subaru Rally Team USA. And X Game rally events are held at stadiums--which are more spectator-friendly than traditional rally races, which are run in stages on dirt tracks and private roads, often through forests.

Ty van Hooydonk, director of product communications for Discover Today's Motorcycling in Irvine, Calif., says that pulling an established star from Supercross makes a lot of sense, especially with rally races at the same venues at which Pastrana made his name in X Games.

"He has already established himself through the X Games and stunting competition. A top two-wheel star is a smart choice for a savvy auto marketer in an era when motorcycling is at such a high profile in America," he says, adding that Supercross is second only to Nascar in motorsports popularity. "If you wanted to get a name player, Travis is certainly among the right guys."

Pastrana, who won the 2006 America National Championship for Subaru last October, has signed on for an additional three years with Subaru.

Meanwhile, Subaru launched a brand campaign, accounting for about 10% of the company's ad budget this year, with the umbrella tag, "It's what makes Subaru a Subaru."

The new Impreza and WRX version are two of six products coming out in the third and fourth quarters, including a new version of the Legacy sedan, 2008 Outback, a redesigned Tribeca crossover.

Mayer says that regardless of product or pitch, the overriding theme is Subaru's all-wheel-drive, engineering excellence and the fact that 95% of Subaru vehicles are still on the road after 10 years, he says.

He says that focusing marketing communications around performance, engineering excellence and vehicle longevity enables the company to find common ground between youth-skewing cars like WRX and older-skewing more family-oriented vehicles like Forester and Outback.

Mayer says that, for example, the effort for WRX is oriented around "Ready for Action"--with ads, including the forthcoming X Games ad using that tag--while Forester's is "Ready for Life."

Next story loading loading..