Title: VP-Global Market Planning
Years at company: 5
Years in b-to-b marketing: 7
Marketing philosophy: "Breakthrough marketing occurs when you define a new playing field. I would much rather start a new sports league than be forced to field a team that competes against the New York Yankees."
For a company that usually doesn't advertise on TV, producing a spot and airing it during the Super Bowl can be risky business. But Jim Lesinski had a hunch that Super Bowl viewers included a large share of Volvo Trucks' primary target audience: truck drivers.
Four years ago he drove to a truck stop with the intention of watching the Super Bowl and videotaping drivers' reactions. Mr. Lesinski, Volvo Trucks' VP-global market planning, says he found a standing-room-only crowd, but "didn't have the guts" to pull out his camcorder. He did push the audio-record button, though, and later synched up the audiotape with a video of the game he made at home.
Volvo Trucks also undertook a series of more conventional research projects, which found that about 50% of the country's truck drivers watch the Super Bowl each year. The results convinced Mr. Lesinski that the big game represented the best opportunity to reach potential customers. "The Super Bowl is one of the few times the wheels stop rolling," he says.
Although Volvo car ads have been a fixture on TV for years, Mr. Lesinski says, "the Super Bowl culture was not quite so well known" by Volvo Trucks' parent company in Sweden. "Spending $1.3 million for 30 seconds was a tough sell," he says. "The commercial and the promotion wrapped around it was 25% of our marketing expenditure that year."
But the gamble paid off. Volvo Trucks' humor-tinged spot from Carmichael Lynch/Minneapolis for the 1998 Super Bowl showcased its flagship heavy-duty truck, the largest on the market. It reached an estimated 1.4 million truck drivers and raised the company's image to that of a "top-tier manufacturer, quite different from where Volvo's reputation was a few years ago," Mr. Lesinski says.
Because the commercial had a fourth-quarter slot, Mr. Lesinski launched an extensive promotional campaign to make sure the audience stayed tuned.
A watch-and-win sweepstakes was rolled out four months prior to the game, with drivers signing up for wallet-size game cards at dealerships, through the Volvo Truck Tour, on the company's Web site and via a toll-free number mentioned in radio and print ads. The grand prize was a Volvo 770 truck, the model showcased in the Super Bowl spot.
The campaign attracted about 35,000 sweepstakes entries, about 20% of them coming over the Internet.
Volvo Trucks also hosted 40 truck stop parties across the country on the day of the game.
In its post-game commercial ratings, USA Today ranked the spot No. 1 in the automotive and business-to-business categories.
"It was clear we'd be back for a second round," Mr. Lesinski says. He found the 1999 Super Bowl campaign an easier sell.