Enterprise Does More than Rent Cars -- and Now its Ads Say That

New Campaign Debuting During Olympics Touts Auto Sales and Sharing

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Enterprise doesn't want to just pick you up. It wants to sell you a car, too.

Despite that fact that the rental car giant has been selling vehicles since 1962, that side of its business has been mostly absent from its TV advertising. That will change this week when the marketer launches a new ad campaign aimed at highlighting its various businesses, including car sales, car sharing, truck rentals and luxury vehicle rentals.

Like other companies across the auto industry, Enterprise is seeking to position itself as a "mobility" provider with a broad range of services aimed at helping people get around.

Enterprise "spans the entire arena of mobility. We have it all under one brand and it's the one brand that is already in the hearts and minds of our customer base," said Lee Broughton, VP-brand marketing for Enterprise North America. But "we've just never tied the whole thing together in one way and marketed it under a masterbrand called 'Enterprise' before. And we really feel like there is a huge opportunity here."

The campaign, which is by Cannonball of St. Louis, stars actor Joel McHale. A TV spot (above) will begin airing on Friday during NBC's coverage of the Olympics opening ceremony. The ad shows Mr. McHale driving on a highway. Each Enterprise service is visually depicted by showing the actor driving different vehicles, with each one popping out of the back of the previous one.

Enterprise is of course best known for traditional car rentals and its signature "We'll Pick You Up" service. The brand first tested advertising its range of services within the same TV ad in 2013 with a spot that declared "whether you want to rent, share or buy, we've got you covered."

Executives considered the ad a test and wanted to make sure the marketing was not confusing consumers to the detriment of its core rental business, Mr. Broughton said. The response was "was overwhelmingly positive," he said. So with the the new campaign, Enterprise is poised to make a sustained investment in plugging all of its services.

Like most auto rental companies, Enterprise sells some of its vehicle fleet to both dealers and directly to consumers. Enterprise owns and manages about 130 used car lots nationally. Hertz, by comparison, operates roughly 75 used car dealerships, according to its website.

Enterprise, which is part of privately held Enterprise Holdings, does not make its vehicle sales figures public. Mr. Broughton said Enterprise completed its best auto sales year ever for its 2016 fiscal year ending July 31. For fiscal year 2015 the company reported "double-digit sales volume growth by featuring more than 250 makes and models of certified high-quality, late-model used cars, trucks, vans and SUVs." Enterprise touts a "low-pressure, haggle-free buying experience" as part of its pitch.

The new campaign comes as the broader used vehicle market is expected to grow more competitive. One factor is that the supply of vehicles is growing, led by more vehicles coming off lease. This contrasts with market trends that occurred in the wake of the Great Recession when car leasing activity slowed because credit was tight, said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader.

But now "there's a surge of used cars coming on the market," she said. "So there is a lot of competition for the customer. And I suspect that is why [Enterprise] is getting up an advertising program because there is so much more competition for customers, both new and used, right now."

There is also more competition for car-sharing, which refers to short-term, hourly rentals that typically occur without human intervention via reservations using mobile apps. Zipcar, which helped pioneer car-sharing, was acquired by Enterprise competitor Avis Budget Group in 2013. Since then, the field has become more crowded as automakers increase investments in their own car-sharing services. For instance, General Motors is pouring money behind a new "personal mobility" brand called Maven that includes a car-sharing program that recently expanded to Boston, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.

Enterprise's program, which is called CarShare, is available in 34 states and Washington, D.C., including at more than 100 college campuses. Key markets include New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto and San Francisco.

The new campaign will lean heavily on content marketing aimed at reaching potential consumers through their passions, such as music, travel and food. Enterprise recently sponsored a spring tour for the solo debut of Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum. The tour was called "The Driver Tour Picked Up By Enterprise." As part of the sponsorship Enterprise produced a series of videos called the "Driver Diaries of Charles Kelley."

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