NEW YORK -- Volvo is parking itself at McDonald's next month. The unlikely pairing of the high-end carmaker and low-price fast feeder will net a Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
promotion to rival McDonald's annual Monopoly game in scope and spending, a source said.
The partnership, which includes TV ads and Volvo-dedicated packaging for french fries, Big Macs and sodas, revolves around the Disney sequel which hits screens July 7. Throughout July, McD's will distribute 672 prizes headlined by a daily car giveaway. For 28 days, beginning July 4, one diner a day will win a Volvo XC90 SUV. Spending for the effort was not disclosed. McD's spent $60 million on ads last October when it was promoting Monopoly, per TNS.
Giving away a $46,000 vehicle to someone who stopped in for a couple of burgers may seem odd, conceded Linda Gangeri, national advertising manager at Volvo, Irvine, Calif. However, "we looked at it from a branding standpoint and felt that it was really right. We're a family brand and felt we would get some exposure beyond our usual places. Really, name a family that hasn't been to McDonald's."
Three TV spots, created by DDB, Chicago, will run during the promotional period touting the film and the various prizes. In addition to the SUVs, winners can also bag the chance to star in an upcoming Jerry Bruckheimer film, Sony PlayStation Portables, iPods and cash. A radio promotion will give away Magellan GPS devices. Happy Meals toys will support. And for the first time, the chain's gift cards will feature the faces of the actors from the film.
Volvo could use a boost of family business. Sales this year are off 10% after an 11.1% sales drop last year, according to Volvo, a unit of Ford Motor. Sales for the XC90, launched in 2002 as Volvo's first foray into the SUV market, are down 7.5% Janurary-May 2006 vs. the same period last year.
A slew of new car launches is creating unlikely alliances such as food and cars, said Wes Brown, partner at Iceology, Los Angeles, a consumer market research firm. "This is an untapped industry for these kinds of associations." Saturn, for example, announced last week it will continue its partnership with the Food Network. "If these kinds of things show any success at all, we will see more car makers go to it," said Brown.
McDonald's, meanwhile, will benefit from the alliance as it has been working to refurbish its image. It is currently "de-plasticizing" many of its restaurants by adding comfy chairs, dimmer lighting and Wi-Fi. Taking a cue from popular fast-casual chains, it regularly launches new "premium" menu items like its new Asian chicken salad and iced coffee.
The efforts appear to be paying off; U.S. same-store sales were up 3.4% in May, marking 37 months of consecutive growth.