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Buick is counting on March Madness excitement to launch its Encore small crossover.

For the third straight year, Buick is an official NCAA partner and will heavily promote its new Korean built Encore throughout telecasts of the 68 team college basketball championship tournament that starts this week.

“We love March Madness because viewer engagement is so high,” said Tony DiSalle, vice president of Buick marketing. “Advertising that taps that kind of passion usually translates into higher consideration and purchase intent rates than for regular programming.”

Buick will try to sell its new entry as a luxurious small vehicle nimble enough to drive and park in crowded metropolitan areas. The five passenger Encore, positioned below the larger Enclave crossover, is 19 inches shorter and 3 inches narrower than the Chevrolet Equinox.

A 30 second TV spot for the Encore shows it maneuvering around animated dinosaurs. That spot, developed by ad agency Leo Burnett, will be in heavy rotation with other Buick commercials on ESPN, TRUtv, TBS, TNT and CBS tournament telecasts leading up to the championship game on April 8 in Atlanta.

Buick has a series of other multimedia March Madness tie ins, including Sirius XM satellite radio spots, print ads in Sports Illustrated, the purchase of search engine words and a presence on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

For example, fans can watch video of then Duke University forward Christian Laettner hitting a last second jumper to beat the University of Kentucky in a 1992 Elite Eight game. Then they can retrace Laettner’s moves on a series of color footprints on a full sized court and take a shot at repeating his heroics. For every basket made, Buick will donate a pair of new shoes to an NCAA designated charity, Samaritan’s Feet.

The imported Encore started arriving at Buick’s 2,200 dealerships in mid January. In February dealers sold 1,597 units, helping Buick boost monthly sales 15 percent.

“That was a really strong start,” DiSalle said, noting it supported internal research that Encore presale awareness and purchase interest was even greater than it was at the same stage for the Verano small sedan.

When the 2014 LaCrosse large sedan and 2014 Regal mid sized sedan arrive this year, all Buick models will be “less than 20 months old,” he said.

Buick is aiming the Encore at two groups: young, small families looking to move up without bulking up and older empty nester couples looking for something smaller without giving up luxury features, DiSalle said.

Buick also will promote Encore’s small size and nimbleness in outdoor media in urban settings. In Chicago, an ad painted on a building side will say: “Actual turning diameter shown.”

In New York, billboards will say: “If you can park it here, you can park it anywhere.”

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