CHRYSLER CASTS ORVIS JEEP EDITION AS FISHERMEN LURE

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Chrysler Corp. hopes it has come up with the right lure to reel in fly fishermen and other outdoorsmen with the Orvis edition of the Jeep Grand Cherokee sport-utility vehicle.

The vehicle, with special paint choices and upscale interior trim, is the result of a marketing partnership between the automaker and Orvis Co., a Manchester, Vt., supplier of upscale fly-fishing equipment and other outdoor sporting goods since 1856. Privately held Orvis has annual sales of $112 million through catalogs and retail stores.

"What drove us was the potential to market to [Orvis'] customer base," said Bob Kirkwood, Jeep merchandising manager.

Orvis views the partnership as an opportunity for increased exposure, said Pat Theodoros, director-communications for the company. The partnership is a first for Jeep, but other automakers have used similar affinity marketing programs for years.

One of the most successful involves Ford Motor Co.'s Ford trucks and Eddie Bauer Inc., the Redmond, Wash., subsidiary of Spiegel that specializes in outdoor-oriented sportswear and gear.

Ford has sold nearly 500,000 Eddie Bauer edition vehicles, beginning with a special version of the Bronco II in 1984. Ford division expects to sell 80,000 Eddie Bauer-badged Explorer and Bronco sport-utilities, Aerostar minivans and F-Series pickup trucks in the 1995 model year.

Eddie Bauer's upscale, outdoorsy image and relatively affluent demographics match the sort of buyers Ford is trying to reach, said Jim Gwaltney, the division's advertising manager.

About 70% of Eddie Bauer customers are women.

"We have a real interest in the women's market," said Mr. Gwaltney, noting women make up 40% of the buyers and influence 60% of the purchases of the popular Explorer, the only sport-utility that outsells the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The two companies do a number of regional co-promotions, involving vehicle displays at Eddie Bauer retail stores or at other venues, such as a recent one at the Texas State Fair. Ford vehicles are used as backdrops in Eddie Bauer catalog photos.

A similar partnership is behind the Nautica edition of the Mercury Villager minivan, marketed by Ford's Lincoln-Mercury division. Nautica Enterprises, New York, makes clothes and accessories that are sold through their own outlets and other stores.

"With the Villager being the first minivan in the Mercury lineup, we thought an association with a high-profile sportswear company would be beneficial," said Cisco Codina, planning manager for the Villager.

The Villager was introduced in late 1992, and the Nautica version bowed a year later.

Promotional tie-ins mostly involve store and mall displays featuring both the vehicle and Nautica goods. About 5% to 7% of Villager's projected 85,000 unit sales this year are expected to be in the branded version.

At Chrysler, marketing executives expect to sell about 9,300 Orvis edition vehicles in the 1995 model year, or about 4% of Grand Cherokee sales. The Orvis edition carries a premium of about $750 over comparable Grand Cherokee Limited Plus models.

The Chrysler/Orvis relationship was put together by the Century Group, a Traverse City, Mich., agency that specializes in outdoor marketing and has done project work for Orvis.

"It's a natural marriage for two brands with a reputation for being authentic," said Charlie Janis, president of the agency.

The shop has produced a four-page insert on the Jeep model for Orvis catalogs and a brochure for Jeep and Orvis retailers to distribute.

Mr. Kirkwood said the partnership gives Chrysler access to the Orvis mailing list, around which direct marketing programs will be designed.

In addition, Chrysler may provide an editorial column on four-wheel driving for The Orvis News, a tabloid newspaper featuring sporting and conservation stories. The paper is mailed five times a year to 500,000 Orvis customers.

The two companies also plan to develop outdoor programming to air on ESPN or other TV outlets, Mr. Kirkwood said.

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