AUTO LICENSING DEALS STRETCHING FROM TEE TO TOYS

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For automakers, li ensed products used to go no further than toy cars and collectibles, with perhaps a logo-carrying cap or jacket.

But now, auto marketers are licensing products that match the lifestyle images of their vehicles. It's a strategy designed to enhance the emotional bonds between the make and its owners.

General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac division has moved beyond just selling replicas of the Cadillac cars. It now offers products that link the brand with golf, the No.*1 leisure activity of a typical Cadillac customer.

"Cadillac wanted products that were suitable for their audience and further strengthened their relationship with the Senior [PGA] Tour," says William Haney, senior VP in charge of agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles' licensing group, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., which not only handles licensing for Cadillac but GM's Buick, Pontiac and Saturn brands as well.

Cadillac sponsors golfers such as Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer and is title sponsor of the Cadillac Senior PGA Tour Series that airs on cable TV's ESPN.

Going beyond golf apparel with the traditional wreath-and-crest logo, Cadillac decided to work with Elmco to design a golf cart bearing its Fleetwood model's name.

The cart retails for between $900 and $1,200 and contains features such as a stereo, leather seats, in-dash fan, built-in cooler and automatic tee dispenser. It's sold through Elmco dealers.

Mr. Haney believes licensed products play a significant role in generating customer loyalty. The role of licensed products is to "fuse consumers to the brand with other quality products to generate sales," he says.

Chrysler Corp.'s Jeep also is building on the lifestyle image through licensed products such as camping gear, luggage and a mountain bike.

One of the most popular Jeep-licensed items is a $139 remote control Wrangler, made by Tamiya America.

"Jeep is strong in toys because that is where we started" with licensed products, says Bob Kirkwood, Jeep merchandising executive.

He believes the toy market helps generate positive feelings in kids who eventually may become loyal customers of the vehicles.

Land Rover North America has gone as far as building a retail package around vehicles and branded products.

This year, Land Rover plans to open 12 Land Rover outlets around the country, where consumers will find not only cars but Land Rover gear and other off-road merchandise such as hiking apparel, bags and luggage.

Like other Land Rover dealers, the centers will offer an off-road driving academy, and a chance to sign up for an adventure vacation with other Land Rover owners.

Paul Hagan, general manager of Land Rover Centre Development, says the centers will help strengthen Land Rover's relationship with the customer by extending the experience of the brand.

"It's not like the consumer will buy a car and the relationship will end," he says.

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