BMW Olympics Spot Launches Tesla-Fighting ‘i’ Sub-Brand – Forbes

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014

BMW is officially launching its Tesla-fighting “i” sub-brand with a new marketing campaign that nods to “the future” and leverages the company’s Sochi Olympics sponsorship to get the i8 plug-in hybrid and i3 all-electric city car off to a running start.

With the campaign and initiation of of U.S. sale of both vehicles in the second quarter of this year, BMW plans to solidify its status as the premium automotive brand with the best shot at challenging Tesla’s initial hold on the high-priced-EV market.

“The challenge for ‘i’ is getting public awareness and getting past the stigma of range anxiety, and talking about the future of mobility in an electric sense,” Michael Jobst, national marketing manager for BMW of North America, told me.

The campaign’s first ad, “Hello Future,” was slated to run during NBC’s broadcast of Friday’s opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics from Russia. In BMW’s largest media investment of the year, the effort subsequently will include two other new TV spots as well as online-only “shorts” and social-media efforts. BMW also will get around to featuring its all-new X5 SUV and its first-ever BMW 2 Series.

“Hello Future” features the words of Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, describing the future in 1964. He spins it as inevitably more fantastic than humans could imagine, and soon the ad is showing the BMW i8 as proof of the futurist’s prediction.

“We thought using him was perfect because ‘i’ stands for innovation, and his 50-year-old speech speaks perfectly to today’s challenges,” Jobst said. “Over the last two to three years, we’ve been hearing a lot about how i3 and i8 are ‘only concept cars’ and ‘just for the press.’

“But these aren’t concept cars now; they’re real cars. And Clarke brings authenticity to that future-now position.”

Use of Clarke in this ad is reminiscent of how Chrysler implemented an old recording of radio icon Paul Harvey in its 2013 Super Bowl ad for Ram, “Farmer.”

Jobst maintained that the “i” campaign will help demonstrate the vehicles’ vast differences from Tesla’s Model S.

“Tesla has a halo car,” he said. “We have a different category of vehicles. The i3 is a city car, a different-sized car in a different category” from Model S. “We also have as our halo the i8 plug-in electric, with its big, sexy sports-car statistics and the fuel efficiency we want.”

BMW also plans to use the Olympics platform to tell a layered story about the electric vehicles, including innovations in battery technology and the use of extensive carbon fiber and reinforced plastic in the cars’ design to make them even more fuel-efficient.

“There are lots of storytelling possibilities,” Jobst said.

BMW chose to forego the Super Bowl this year in favor of betting its most important 2014 marketing chips on the Olympics, where it already was prominent as a major sponsor of the U.S. Olympic bobsled team.

The i brand launch is the company’s largest media investment of the year.

“It is a rare and exciting opportunity to launch a new brand and for BMW i, one that requires a world stage,” said Trudy Hardy, vice president of marketing for BMW of North America, in a statement. “We look forward to making a bold statement about the future of sustainable mobility.”



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