May 22nd, 2008

Vespa Mixes It Up With 'Get Smart,' Subway For Promo

By Karl Greenberg
Marketing Daily

Piaggio Group’s Vespa scooter brand has its wheels in the Warner Brothers film “Get Smart” and is promoting its scooters, the movie, and $5 Subway sandwiches with a cross-promotional arrangement with the restaurant chain this summer.

In the film starring Steve Carell and premiering June 20, Vespa’s LX 150 scooter is Carell’s ride of choice.

The promotion puts the LX 150 and other scooters in a Subway online instant-win game and sweepstakes, with 10 Vespas as grand prizes, and free food and gear as lesser prizes.

Vespa is offering a free $5 Subway card with a test drive or product demonstration at dealers.

Subway is promoting Vespa by telling participants about the “Get Smart” Eat Fresh Instant Win Game and Sweepstakes in which Vespa is offering a free Vespa Soft-Touch helmet, which retails for around $300, with the purchase of a new Vespa scooter.

The efforts include online, print and in-store promotions through August at all Vespa dealers, Subway’s 21,500 restaurants in the U.S. and at SubwayFreshBuzz.com and VespaUSA.com.

The LX 150 is “the meat of our product range,” says Paolo Timoni, president/CEO of New York-based Piaggio Group Americas. “It’s perfect for city riding but it can also ride on-highway. In the movie, it is used as an alternative form of transportation--the main actor uses it to go from place A to place B.” That, he says, is something that people have been doing for years in Europe, but has been a slower sell in the U.S.--until now, thanks to soaring gasoline prices.

“In fact, sales in the first four months this year are up 40% versus the same period last year,” says Timoni--who says the phenomenon is not just in urban markets, where destinations are relatively close together. “It’s kind of all over the country; in fact, in some of the smaller cities the sales growth is even faster.”

He says while sales of all Vespa scooters are up, the biggest growth is in entry-level scooters, the 50cc bikes. “So, clearly we have a significant portion of people approaching the product for the first time, to save money, and they are looking at the entry level.” He says the scooters get between 70 and 90 miles per gallon.

Vespa actually began talking about Vespas as a fuel-efficient and traffic-jam-relieving form of transit two years ago when it launched its umbrella campaign, “Vespanomics.” That effort continues online, and with some advertising, per Timoni. As for product placement, “we have done it in the past and will continue to do it in the future,” he says. “We think product placement is a good component of our overall marketing strategy.”

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