The newest generation of 5-Series models, just arriving at dealers, "will be the new center of the brand, maybe not in its first year but in a year or two," said Jim McDowell, VP-marketing.
BMW launches the faster, bigger 5-Series in a national drive starting today on TV and in newspapers. The 30-second TV spot from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, shows the 540i scooting past yachts on Manhattan streets-water-filled canals via special effects from London's Smoke & Mirrors Studio.
"Why float through life when you can drive," says the voice-over. A second version of the commercial for regional markets is tagged with BMW's support of the Olympic Torch Relay.
BMW spent just $2.6 million on the 5-Series in measured media-all print-last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. But the marketer has budgeted an estimated $30 million to $35 million for this year's campaign, through the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
BMW's sales volume leader, the cheaper 3-Series, has defined the brand to date. But, said Mr. McDowell, "We see the 5-Series as our greatest opportunity for growth."
BMW's research shows customers of different ages and sexes are attracted to different aspects of the 5-Series, and it expects to raise its current median age of owners from 41.
BMW has attracted a high percentage of fast-track, career-oriented males. "We're trying to expand that," Mr. McDowell said.
A record 24,175 5-Series models were sold in the U.S. in 1994. Sales dipped 6.4% to 22,637 last year.
Mr. McDowell named Mercedes-Benz's E-Class as the 5-Series' main competitor. On May 1, Mercedes-Benz of North America breaks a new TV spot for the '97 E420 from Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York.
CARRYING THE TORCH
BMW is providing its cars, motorcycles and mountain bikes for the Olympic Torch Relay, starting April 27 in Los Angeles and ending in Atlanta July 19.
There will be local promotions at BMW dealerships along the route. They'll pay BMW between $3,000 and $8,000 for the privilege, which should help the company recoup its estimated $10 million investment to be official international auto sponsor of the Games.
BMW cut its overall magazine budget earlier this year, mostly from lifestyle books, shifting the bulk of its estimated $80 million media budget to TV for its Olympics sponsorship.
But BMW is sticking with auto enthusiast books; a 12-page spread broke in May editions.