VW, which counts Major League Soccer as its largest U.S. sports sponsorship, kicked off the MLS playoff schedule last Friday with the first of what's planned to be a series of webisodes from Crispin.
The series, viewable online on the MLS website as well as viral-video hubs such as YouTube, is titled "Road to the MLS Cup," and it chronicles an eight-day, 2,300-mile cross-country journey (in VW's new Routan minivan) of the league's championship cup, its stiff official handler and an obnoxious, harried, clipboard-wielding soccer mom (played by Mo Collins of "MadTV").
"We wanted to do something we could plant on the internet and get a tremendous amount of word of mouth," said Tim Ellis, VW's VP-marketing. "Crispin's very good at that, and we think this will be very edgy and engaging and surprising."
While it's perhaps not surprising that VW used a soccer platform to sell minivans, a pairing as timeless as Thanksgiving and turkey in suburban America, the somewhat mocking portrayal of soccer moms might raise a few eyebrows.
They are the, uh, target audience, after all.
But Crispin and VW wagered that their soccer moms view that status ironically. "The relationship between minivans and moms is nothing new, but it's new to Volkswagen," said Omid Farhang, the Crispin assistant creative director who helped produce the campaign. "A lot of these women who are now soccer moms were driving Rabbits and Cabriolets when they were in college."
More endearing than divisive
Mr. Farhang believes Ms. Collins' portrayal of a soccer mom as an overeager, close-talking scatterbrain, who, in the first episode, drives off without her soccer-playing kids, will wind up being more endearing than derisive. "As people start watching, they'll make a deeper connection," he said. "She takes intense pride in motherhood, even if she crosses the line sometimes."
The webisodes are the latest play in a growing bet on MLS by VW, which supports a myriad of soccer leagues around the world.
In the MLS Washington stadium, VW installed a 20,000-square-foot "garage" full of its cars, as well as some interactive displays, that Mr. Ellis said has drawn an average of 1,200 fans per game and boosted sales for local dealers, particularly among Hispanics, who attend MLS heavily and had been a tough demographic for VW to reach in that market.
The webisodes are the latest extension of the MLS platform for VW. Mr. Ellis declined to state any viewership targets for the series, but he said he hoped it would catch fire on the internet in a similar fashion to Crispin's iconic "Subservient Chicken" project for Burger King, which is believed to be the most-viewed viral website produced by a marketer.
Crispin's Mr. Farhang, for his part, said this project required a fresh perspective: "Otherwise, you just end up with 'Subservient Minivan.'"