Americans are accustomed to Fiat Chrysler brands making all manner of bold, relevant statements with its Super Bowl advertising since 2011, when since Chrysler’s iconic Eminem “Born of Fire” spot broke during the second half of Super Bowl XLV.
But for Super Bowl LI, FCA made a bold statement in a different way, dedicating all three ad buys to supporting one brand: the Alfa Romeo sporty car brand that the automaker is trying to resuscitate in the US.
Its Big Game strategy aimed to re-introduce a marque with the most exciting performance proposition beyond its ultra-luxury Ferrari brand. Every Alfa Romeo car featured in FCA’s Super Bowl 51 ads was a bold red, making an emphatic statement and vying to stand out in terms of visuals and storytelling.
The first spot ran in the second quarter: “Riding Dragons,” which made it clear that, after years of attempting to relaunch its Italian performance car brand in the US market, FCA is committing itself to make good on CEO Sergio Marchionne’s ambitions for the brands. And with his decision to retire in the next few years, Marchionne is running against the clock.
“Staying true to who you are is all that really matters,” the voiceover to the 60-second ad stated over footage from the 105-year history of Alfa Romeo, right up through to its modern incarnation in a bevy of stylish, hot-performing red models. The imagery mixed in scenes of kids at play, in dance practice, and wondering at a rocket taking off.
Then, obliquely referring to the Alfa Romeo brand’s own difficulty in getting back to the American market after some three decades away, the ad said, “And the ability to reinvent ourselves is the most human trait of all. All this to grow fearless so that when we got the chance, we could deliver that fine car and once again ride on the backs of dragons.” The iconic Alfa Romeo logo formed, with a stylized green serpent, a dragon-like figure, joining a red cross.
As the Fox Sports game-calling duo of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman finished the first half of the Super Bowl, they invited viewers to join a sponsored segment: The Alfa Romeo Halftime Report.
“Dear Predictable” — a second, 30-second spot — ran during the third quarter and extended FCA’s sole attention to Alfa Romeo. It highlighted the Alfa Romeo brand story on the sleekly styled, powerful back of the first new model out of the chute, Giulia, which was shown negotiating hairpin turns in hair-raising style.
A third ad, toward the end of the game, was also devoted to Giulia, describing it this way: “Some cars take your breath away; only one gives it back.”
Fiat Chrysler’s three ads for Alfa Romeo made good on the #AwakenTheDrive promise that the company would stick with the ambitious marketing aims for the Super Bowl that it has executed every year since wowing the world with the Eminem ad for the Chrysler brand.
And, in fact, FCA’s decision to devote an entire Super Bowl platform to just one brand has no precedent in the years since 2011, with the company typically dividing its Big Game spots among its other brands including Fiat, Jeep, Dodge and Ram.
Fiat Chrysler lately has been talking about the “rebirth” of the Alfa Romeo brand with the all-new 2017 Giulia, calling it “the first of eight all-new Alfa Romeos debuting through 2020″ and embodying the brand’s la meccanica delle emozioni (“the mechanics of emotion”) spirit.
By now, the rebirth of Alfa Romeo in the US already was to have played a significant role in Fiat Chrysler’s plans to pick up significant sales volumes and market share by 2018. In fact, in June 2015, in a ceremony starring world-renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, Marchionne introduced the first new Alfa Romeo model in six years. A cornerstone of his plan to beef up Fiat Chrysler was to expand Alfa Romeo sales to 400,000 vehicles in 2018.
But not only have there been delays in Alfa Romeo making a splashy re-entry to the US, Marchionne’s ambitions for significant sales growth in China haven’t materialized as quickly as desired. As a result, the $5.5 billion that Fiat Chrysler had planned to spend on Alfa Romeo through 2018 has been spread a year or two further out, with delays in several model launches. It remains to be seen if the Super Bowl strategy will help speed things up.