A Mercedes-Benz has long been considered one of those top-of -the-market items that only a select few had the wherewithal to purchase. Come Super Bowl XLVII, the automaker hopes to extend its appeal to a wider set of consumers.
After joining the Super Bowl's ad ranks in 2011 and sitting out in 2012, Mercedes is poised to redefine its appeal to the game's massive TV audience, which last year included approximately 111.3 million U.S. viewers, according to Nielsen. The car marketer will use the Super Bowl to introduce its CLA, a "highly stylized four-door coupe" with what might be a surprising price, said Steve Cannon, president-CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, in an interview with Advertising Age.
"We have something big to say and we think this is a great vehicle to reach out to that mass affluent audience," he said. "We hope to use the Super Bowl to kind of open up the Mercedes-Benz brand to a wider audience. There are a lot of people out there who just automatically put Mercedes-Benz in an out-of -reach category. This is a great opportunity to use this new product coming to market in 2013 as that 'Wow, I didn't realize that about Mercedes-Benz.' That's the kind of wake-up call opportunity -- with a mass audience -- that we're going, we hope, to use the Super Bowl to communicate."
"For our C-Class, the median age [of the consumer] is around 50," he said. "We think we're going to get 30-something and 40-somethings in this car."
In its last Super Bowl appearance, Mercedes ran a 60-second ad in the fourth quarter that depicted past and present car models escaping garages, showrooms and driveways to welcome a new lineup of autos. Entrepreneur Sean Combs, also known as Diddy, had a featured role. The automaker intends to run its 2013 ad in the fourth quarter as well, according to a spokeswoman for the company. Already, news reports suggest model Kate Upton and singer Usher will be featured in the new effort.
The ads are being crafted with Mercedes' longtime agency, Merkley + Partners, owned by Omnicom Group.
"There's more to come," said Mr. Cannon, declining to tip his creative hand. "Celebrity plays with the young audience, and we are stepping up our game. If you want to step on that stage, you'd better be prepared to go big. Mercedes-Benz is a brand that has a very high celebrity quotient anyway. It's our natural audience. We're going to have some fun with it in the spot itself, use these high-profile kind of celebrities in connection with this new vehicle."
The company will have to work hard to stand out. For the past two years, the Super Bowl has more or less become a parking lot of ads from sundry automakers. Already, Volkswagen, Hyundai and Kia are among the sponsors lined up for the next event. Volkswagen has proven quite adept at generating buzz with prereleases of Super Bowl content. And many observers are wondering if Chrysler will join the event again -- and if so, how it might top its 2012 post-halftime spot featuring Clint Eastwood.
Of course, Mercedes has a weapon in its marketing arsenal that others do not: its name on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where the 2013 Super Bowl will unfold.
The automaker has reached out since 2005 to New Orleans, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Cannon said. Mercedes has planted trees and taken part in several charitable programs. "We are a member of that community -- more than just slapping our logo on a very large stadium -- and we are going to leverage that ," he said. Some of the commercial work for the company's Super Bowl ad spot is taking place in New Orleans, where it can generate economic activity, he said.
As with anything Super Bowl-related, the stakes are high. Mercedes will have to balance the introduction of the CLA while maintaining its status as an aspirational brand. And Mr. Cannon will be watching the results of the campaign as CEO of U.S. operations, not as the division's chief marketing officer -- the title he held until the start of this year, when he was elevated to the top post.
"This is not just any Super Bowl," he said. "Anybody can stand up and spend the money, but to have Mercedes-Benz on the Superdome with a brand-new car and and a brand-new audience and being a member of the community in New Orleans -- those are a lot of dots that we'll try to connect."