BMW of North America is building its Motorsports M brand with print advertising and a racing strategy to link its specialty car to overall brand image.
M designates the high-performance version of the 3 series, 5 series or Z3 series cars. In the USA, BMW uses broadcast and print to market its line of 3, 5 and 7 series cars, but it usually advertises the M brand with print ads after race victories.
A new, strictly print US campaign for the M brand broke last month in The Wall Street Journal and is running in business, lifestyle and racing enthusiast magazines.
Although BMW would not reveal ad spending for the campaign, the fact that it is running a print-only campaign suggests the budget for the M brand is less than 10 percent of its overall ad spending.
BMW spent $73 million on advertising for its automobiles. About $2.8 million went toward the M3, according to research firm Competitive Media Reporting.
Vic Doolan, president of BMW of North America, says he isn't worried that a stronger M brand may weaken the larger brand.
'Our brand appeals to those who love driving, for the absolute enthusiast,' he said. 'M puts even further emphasis on BMW values. It doesn't contradict them.'
BMW is even encouraging dealers to build a separate M display area, as some of its dealers have done already on their own. BMW included a prototype 'M Cafe' at the Los Angeles auto show earlier this year.
The M line, which originally included the M3 Coupe, was expanded to include the M3 Sedan in 1997. An M3 convertible will go on sale this month. BMW already introduced the 1999 M Roadster - based on the Z3 Roadster. An M Coupe is expected to be available this fall. Next year, BMW will release a M5.
One ad for a shiny M Roadster has the tagline: 'The wax can barely hang on.'
The marketing strategy behind M is not without its risks. By pushing M as a brand, BMW could dilute the larger brand.
Previously, the M line was considered a very exclusive brand aimed at racing enthusiasts.
M is now being marketed as a car for a wider luxury car audience. In addition, advertising the 'boy-racer' image conflicts with the company's push to promote safety features.