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Holden’s Star Wars coup 'huge' for company

Use the force: Details on Holden’s tie-in with the new Star Wars movie franchise via Disney are scarce, but it will be a huge activation, according to Holden’s executive director of marketing Geraldine Davys.

Marketing and sponsorship landscape to change as Holden morphs into importing role

28 Aug 2015

HOLDEN’S big-dollar deal with the Walt Disney-owned Star Wars movie franchise is just the beginning of a new wave of marketing and sponsorship activities reminding people that the company is here to stay.

As the deadline for the closure of the company’s manufacturing facilities in South Australia and Victoria looms, Holden will also focus its marketing efforts on exposing more Australians to its new, fully imported model line-up.

Details around the Star Wars/Walt Disney Corporation are scarce, but Holden’s executive director of marketing and customer experience Geraldine Davys says that the opportunity to partner with one of the world’s biggest brands was too good to pass up.

“We have the automotive rights in Australia to use the Star Wars franchise and all of the relevant opportunities we get as a result of that,” she told GoAuto.

“It gives us a huge opportunity to really start to build momentum across the age demographic, which actually spans from six to 54 years.

“That’s one of the key reasons we looked at the Star Wars franchise in the first instance. Not only is it the biggest brand in the world at the moment but what it will also do is ensure we are able to talk a greater number of customers across a lot of different car lines and models that we have, not only now but that we will launch in 2016 and 2017.”

The deal will extend through the release of the next movie in the franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December this year and beyond. Ms Davys said that specifics of the deal have not yet been released, but suggested that opportunities would be broad and multifaceted.

“Quite frankly, we have unlimited opportunity with them,” she said. “It’s the activation of the sponsorship that is the success in any of these kinds of scenarios. It will be things like merchandise, dealer integration, social media activation and the like. We have a big 12 months planned.”

She admitted that some scepticism has greeted the news of the deal, but the strength of the marketing position was hard to ignore.

 center imageLeft: Holden executive director of marketing Geraldine Davys

“Even internally, some of our people are wondering how [the Stars Wars deal] will all work,” she said. “A lot of it is in the activation, but it’s the fact that it’s the biggest brand in the world that spans six-to-54 year olds, and we have a lot of scope to use it across a lot of different models and ranges across Holden.”

The company will also continue to invest in sponsorships in the sporting arena, according to Ms Davys, who pointed to the recent activation with the Collingwood football club to rename its ground the Holden Centre.

“With AFL, we’ve recently expanded that sponsorship to include the Holden Centre, which shows we are committed to the sport,” she said. “Motorsport, we don’t see a change to our commitment over time.

“It’s fair to say that AFL isn’t the same AFL three to five years ago. The sport and the brand is evolving. We’ll stick with those sports as long as they maintain relevance for a brand like Holden.”

The majority of the company’s marketing spend will remain in the area of sports sponsorship going forward, according to Ms Davys.

“The bulk of the dollars are certainly still sitting in that sporting arena, however it’s prudent of any marketing director to ensure that your dollars are aligning best with the consumer you are talking to,” she said.

Convincing Australians that the company will still exist post-2017 is still a big job, according to Ms Davys, as well as trying to communicate to a new, more divided consumer group.

“What is key for us moving forward is that we need to bring a whole new generation of customers into the Holden brand,” she said. “We’ve been exceptionally successful with our customer base that has been very loyal to Holden.

“The challenge has absolutely been to show that we will be here beyond 2017.

Some of the brand health measures we’ve recently had, like net momentum (a measure of positive and negative momentum of a brand), are showing increases of ten percentage points.

“The story out there is changing, because of all the brand advertising that we’ve done, all the momentum around the new models were bringing to market… we’ll continue to tell that story – we have 24 models coming to market in the next five years. We want to be seen that we will be here beyond 2017 and that’s really important to show that we’ll still be around. It’s good for customers, it’s good for dealers and it’s good internally.”

Holden senior manager of product communications Kate Lonsdale also pointed to the success of the company’s grant-based Home Ground Advantage program, which will provide $5 million over the next ten years to community sporting groups to upgrade facilities.

“It’s a great opportunity to really re-establish that connection with Australian communities, and it also works really well with dealerships,” said Ms Lonsdale.

“One of the major points is that this program is running over a long period of time, and its running post closing of manufacturing, so it’s important for us to hammer home that we’re going to be there long after the closure of manufacturing.”

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