Subaru’s sexy Sumo ads win prizes for creativity and sales

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The Subaru Forester had a problem. Was it an SUV? Was it a station wagon?

Consumers didn’t know what to make of it. That meant lethargic sales. To make matters worse, consumers didn’t know that the Forester was made in Japan. That meant the Forester was missing out on the benefits that the made-in-Japan label conjures up in the consumer’s mind: reliability, durability, advanced technology.

What to do?

An audacious ad campaign was called for, one that got across three ideas loud and clear: the 2009 Forester had a new look; was an SUV; was Japanese.

The automaker took the assignment to DDB Canada, whose staffers came back with this proposal: Why not ads featuring Sumo wrestlers frolicking round the 2009 Forester? Nothing says made-in-Japan more clearly than beefy Sumo wrestlers. Besides, they’d sure stand out.

Subaru’s daring paid off in the showroom.

And while the industry was sliding into the doldrums when the campaign was launched last year, Subaru and the Forester did very well. Ted Lalka, Subaru Canada’s V-P product planning and marketing says Subaru sales rose 20.5 percent while industry sales slid back 1.1 percent.

The judges at the Canadian Marketing Association agreed. Sumo Sexy won nine awards, including Best of the Best as well as Gold in the digital automotive and integrated automotive categories.

For the rest of this story, check out the February issue of Canadian AutoWorld.