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- 6 Feb 2014
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Luxury Auto Brands Join Commercial Giants in Super Bowl Push

Maserati: Strike While The Giants Are Sleeping by Wieden & Kennedy

Maserati and Jaguar join Coca Cola, Doritos and H&M, sharing prime-time television commercials to a record-breaking Super Bowl audience

Super Bowl XLVIII aired on February 2nd 2014, averaging 115.5 million television viewers according to Nielsen, and a further half a million online according to Fox. Such figures makes it the most-watched Super Bowl – or program of any kind – in TV history, topping the previous record of 111.3 million viewers for the 2012 edition. The event is thought to have generated 25.3 million Tweets.

Naturally the cost of advertising was astronomical, averaging around $4 million per 30 seconds during the game. And unsurprisingly, consumer giants such as Coca Cola, Pepsico, Microsoft, Budweiser, H&M and Doritos all developed dedicated spots for what has become one of the biggest global advertising events of the year.

As per usual the space was dominated by car brands. Kia, Audi, Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet, Volkswagen, Jeep and Hyundai all shared their message with the record-breaking audience. Luxury brands for the most part stayed away, with the exception of Jaguar and Maserati, who for the very first time debuted campaigns.

 Perhaps it is time to abandon preconceived notions of what luxury brands ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ do when it comes to marketing 

The United States forms one of the world’s two largest markets for luxury cars, alongside China. In 2013 Mercedes-Benz became the top selling brand, followed by BMW and Lexus respectively. The three giants alone sold more than 895,000 vehicles last year, as compared to Maserati’s 6,900 units in North America, and Jaguar’s 76,668 globally.

The opportunities for smaller luxury players in this gargantuan market are evident. As sales of the big three continue to grow – and be purchased by nearly 1 million Americans annually – niche brands provide a less ubiquitous alternative in the crowded space. Backed financially by Tata Motors (Jaguar) and Fiat (Maserati), the time seems right to start making their name stateside.

And in terms of building brand awareness, the Super Bowl delivers a direct hit to millions of people in a market that is showing unexpected signs of growth. Despite the backlash that these automakers were advertising to a majority who cannot afford their products, or choosing a medium that was not necessarily ‘luxury’, the awareness effect of these two spots is somewhat undeniable.

Jaguar: British Villains Rendezvous by Spark 44

And perhaps it is time to abandon preconceived notions of what luxury brands ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ do when it comes to marketing. Luxury itself has become segmented and democratic, an industry with a multitude of products for a complex range of consumers. There are few luxury giants who do not straddle multiple categories or price positions these days.

Indeed, ‘luxury’ brand Mercedes-Benz managed to knock BMW from the U.S. top spot in 2013, in part due to the September introduction of the $29,900 CLA. The first Mercedes with a starting price in the U.S. below $30,000 – of which it sold 14,113 for the year – was coincidentally unveiled in a 2013 Super Bowl campaign.

Modern luxury consumers pair designer leathergoods with garments from Zara or H&M. They are just as likely to consume Coca Cola as they are Dom Perignon. One must only look to Fifth Avenue or the Champs Élysées to see that increasingly these variously positioned brands share the same retail space, so why is it so illogical that they would share advertising slots?

 Why is it so illogical that these ‘high’ and ‘low’ brands would occupy the same advertising space? 

Both Jaguar and Maserati chose their campaign product carefully, communicating on models that will retail in North America for around $65,000. Albeit not a cheap necessity based car, but also a far cry short of Jaguar’s $155,000+ 2013 XJ Ultimate or Maserati’s $130,000+ GranTurismo Sport.

When we think of this strategy from the perspective of a luxury goods brand, it is realistically no different to globally campaigning fragrance on television, whilst keeping the most exotic and rarefied of products under lock-and-key within boutiques.

And when you think about the target audience, luxury car brands leveraging the Super Bowl is not so dissimilar to luxury fashion brands leveraging events like the Academy Awards or Cannes Film Festival.

The audience the ‘red carpet’ strategy reaches is just as enormous as it is lacking in targeting or segmentation. Designed to generate column inches and Google searches over selling products or attracting new ultra high net worth customers.

Frankly, it is surprising that more luxury brands are not leveraging the potential of the Super Bowl. Particularly given that it has become one of the most important periods of private jet travel in the United States, and one of the busiest periods for bespoke travel designers and luxury hoteliers.

Not to mention the fact that luxury brands now sponsor everything from NBL to English Premier League, neither of which have the traditional ‘luxury’ connotations associated with polo, golf or yacht racing as examples.

 The audience the ‘red carpet’ strategy reaches is as enormous as it is lacking in segmentation 

At the end of the day, Maserati’s “Strike While The Giants Are Sleeping” has been viewed over 2,116,000 times on YouTube in just two days. Jaguar’s “British Villains Rendezvous” is fast approaching 10,000,000 in a little over one week. All which would not exist without their respective Super Bowl campaigns.

And as Jean-Noël Kapferer once explained, no matter how a luxury brand is managed, many more people should know the brand than those than can actually buy it.

“Billions of people have seen Bond movies, disproportionate to those who could actually afford to purchase the cars. But when you see an Aston Martin on the street you understand that part of the value is ‘they know I have an Aston Martin’.”

And now perhaps, thanks to the Super Bowl, more people in the United States will understand the connotations of owning a Jaguar or a Maserati.

To further investigate the automotive industry on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

- Record Sales For Luxury Car Brands in 2013
- Luxury Auto Brands Swap Showrooms for Experiences
- The Luxury Automotive Sector Continues to Forge Ahead