MUNICH - Porsche is reaching a new set of potential fans.
Thanks to Sally Carrera, the animated Porsche 911 that stars in the new Disney/Pixar movie Cars, the German sports car maker is being seen by millions of potential car buyers worldwide.
Such exposure would easily cost a company tens of millions of euros. But for Porsche, the advertising is free.
This is particularly helpful to the brand in the US, where the company sold 35 percent of it 91,219 global volume but spent only an estimated $20.7 million (about 16.3 million) on measured media last year.
By comparison, General Motors spent about $2.8 billion in the US.
Box office sensation
Cars, an animated movie starring only car models, has been a summer hit. Through September 10, the film has made $425.4 million worldwide.
The movie debuted in the US June 9 and started to reach European theaters in July. It opened in Germany on September 7.
The movie tells the story of a famous racecar driver who gets lost and ends up in the sleepy, fictional US town of Radiator Springs, along the famous Route 66. There he meets Sally, a 2002 Porsche, who is the towns lawyer.
Sally and other town residents teach the hot-shot driver that friendship is more important than fame and money.
The German carmaker liked the storyline, says Bernd Harling, spokesman for Porsche Cars North America. Porsche, which once only targeted young, rich men, now wants to broaden its consumer base to families and moms.
About 30 million people have seen the movie in the US, which is an exposure that even Porsche does not snuff at, Harling says. Our clientele has expanded because of the Cayenne SUV. With the Cayenne, were not just targeting the 47-year-old affluent architect or lawyer. This is a four-door SUV that were targeting to families, moms who make decisions and kids sitting in the backseat.
This is a softer image for Porsche, he says. This movie helps us reach that audience.
Harling says no money changed hands between the carmaker and the moviemaker.
The directors of the movie approached Porsche headquarters in Stuttgart for the permission to use the Carrera name and its image, he said.
Harling said Porsche agreed, knowing it would be a good marketing idea. But Porsche bosses also were pleased that the films executives understood the car company.
These long-haired guys who came to us were car guys, Harling says. Two of them had old 911s. Pixar pushes the envelope in terms of technology. Thats what Porsche does, too.
For Porsches part, it provided the filmmakers with an actual 911 so that they could develop the Sally character based on the real characteristics of the car.
On the marketing side, Porsche dealers in the US gave movie tickets to consumers who test drove a Porsche. The company also provided a real 911, which was custom made into a life-sized version of Sally Carrera. The car toured about 40 US cities.
Shut out in Europe
This movie has quadrupled our exposure to our target group, Harling says. We have limited marketing money. To get the same exposure on TV and magazines would have cost us in the two-digit million amount at least. I just hope we get the same reception in Europe.
Matching its marketing success in the US will be difficult. Harling says General Motors has exclusive automotive marketing rights to the movie here.
In Europe, we would not have been able to pay for these rights, he says. But in this case, we are on the better side because Sally is a part of the movie, not a part of the advertising. This is more credible.
Harling says Porsche North America may do a direct marketing campaign in the US when the DVD version of the movie is released November 7. He says the company is discussing the possibilities of such a campaign with Disneys distribution arm, Buena Vista.