03 May 2007

Ford and Rip Curl go beyond the wave.

Is Ford’s Ripcurl XR8 Ute Australia’s first co-branded car? It could be. Already a co-sponsor of a major Australian surfing title, the US manufacturer is doing some serious stretching in Australia alongside surfboard and clothing company Rip Curl.

While car manufacturers can piggyback on a large, loyal and extremely well profiled audience (think Ford vs General Motors Holden), it might also work if only to a niche market.

Hitching up with an existing youth brand seems like a good idea, especially if it’s an iconic Australian surf sport brand, like Rip Curl. And co-branding is useful as it helps reinforce the lifestyle image of the cars (how Australian is a ute after all, unless it's a panel van?) by linking in to an existing group of customers with similar tastes, lifestyle, or age. So it must be something that Ford has been missing out on as it seeks to bolster sales in a flagging demographic with the tie-in.

But it’s not Ford’s first foray into co-branding arrangements with clothing companies. Ford USA already produces SUV’s with lifestyle and clothing retailer Eddie Bauer (there’s a range of two and 4WDs in the 2007 series) and Subaru has teamed up with US outdoor clothing catalogue company L.L. Bean to produce the Subaru Gear range of outdoor apparel.

And there’s similar examples of between sports shoe and sports vehicle think Porsche and Puma, Adidas and Porsche, Ducati and Adidas, but mostly it’s been one way co-branding.

The most important thing for Ford is to make sure that the brand association works both ways, so that the target market segments don’t start to see it a just another multinational muscling in on a cool brand. Beyond the Rip Curl extras, what really makes this is a true Ford brand experience? What preserves brand attributes?

Importantly for Rip Curl, they should be wary that there is no diminution of their own brand by the target segment (as seen in the current Australian television advertising) but also by future target segments and this will require some strong brand management.


Anonymous said...

I know of two other previous attempts to co-brand cars in Australia.

The most recent didn't go into production but was a concept car/panelvan produced for a 2000 motor show. It was a joint project between Ford Sandman and Mambo. It generated some press at the time.

While the other was the curious marriage between Ford LTD and Cartier. Produced around 1980 it featured the Cartier badge on the exterior of the car and embosed on the leather seats. The purchase bundle included a Cartier leather bag, purse and key ring. My mum still has the key ring but the champagne coloured car (this was aspirational stuff) is just a fond distant memory!

Anonymous said...

it was actually the HOLDEN sandman and mambo