Suzuki Backs NYC Film Festival In First Foray Into Latino Creative

Automaker Suzuki is increasing its commitment to the Latino market, with such events as official sponsorship of last week's 8th New York International Latino Film Festival (NYILFF). The company sponsored a screening of the Wilmer Valderrama film "El Muerto" and other events at the Manhattan festival, at which it promoted its XL7 SUV.

The partnership marks Suzuki's first foray into the Latino creative market.

Suzuki Auto is also promoting the XL7 with an online national animation contest," ¡Anímate! - La vida Suzuki," starting in September to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month. The contest will conclude with the screening of the winning animation at next year's NYILFF.

This year's festival, which concluded on Saturday, included screenings, industry panel discussions, music showcases, cultural events and the free-to-the-community NYILFF Family Day and Cinema under the Stars.

Gene Brown, Suzuki vice president/marketing, says that the shift toward marketing to Hispanics is new for the Brea, Calif.-based sales arm of the Japanese motorcycle and auto company.



"Historically, we have not done a lot with the Hispanic market, but Suzuki brand opinion is higher among Hispanic versus general market--Suzuki performs much better among the Hispanic audience, so we see it as opportunity both for that reason and because of the growth of the Hispanic population and buying power."

Suzuki started Spanish-language advertising last October with a brand effort that promoted cars by using Suzuki motorcycles. That campaign introduced the new theme line "It's Gonna Be a Great Ride," and included ads showing two guys in an XL7 getting entangled with a gang of hot biker chicks on Suzuki motorcycles. Brown says the company ran the ads in test markets like Miami on a spot basis.

Brown says the focus on the NYILFF reflects an effort to show products and not just signage, because "in our case, the Suzuki name on a billboard is likely to symbolize motorcycles, so we need to engage the audience. We want people to see the products and interact with them."

The company is considering expanding local-market, Hispanic-targeted promotions such as a regional sweepstakes promotion with Philadelphia dealers and Univision and Copa Panamerican soccer.

"We have regional marketing staff engaged with this as well, on a local basis. So it's an explicit charter within our marketing mix. But we are in learning stages," says Brown.

Melissa Fujimoto, senior promotions analyst at Suzuki, says the animation contest will launch both online and via a grassroots contest at film schools. "It's a Suzuki-branded contest run by the Festival, and it's the first time they are doing animation contest as well," she says.

The company will also launch a new car, the SX4 compact sedan this fall, after having launched an all-wheel drive crossover version last year. Brown says the ad campaign, with Spanish-language versions, will follow the "It's Gonna Be a Great Ride" ad platform showing both the crossover and sedan together with Suzuki motorcycles.

Suzuki reported record U.S. sales in June, selling 10,325 vehicles for the month--a 6% increase versus the month last year. Through June, the company sold 57,488 vehicles in the U.S.

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