Chevy Pulls ‘Silverado Strong’ Promo in Another Example of Misguided Relevance

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Chevrolet backed out of a “Silverado Strong” promotion planned for the fifth game of the World Series this week in St. Louis after figuring at the last minute that it could get criticized by seeming to exploit the “Boston Strong” theme that arose in the wake of the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings in April.

The brand was going to ask crowd members at Busch Stadium to use placards under their seats to spell out “Silverado Strong” in a reference to the ongoing marketing campaign for the crucial new Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. But after pictures of the rehearsal that had been posted online drew social media complaints, GM and Major League Baseball pulled the plug.

“Chevrolet had planned to continue the campaign [at the game] through an interactive in-stadium promotion,” Chevy spokesman Michael Albano told brandchannel. “However, following [the] rehearsal we realized there was the possibility that we may offend some of the very fans we were trying to honor, [and] for that reason Chevrolet and MLB decided to cancel the promotion.”[more]

Silverado has been hit with some challenges right out of the gate this year, including complaints about a significant price rise which GM then used only to allow dealers to offer more significant incentives on the truck, and it is competing fiercely with the Ford F-150, Dodge Ram and Toyota Tundra for sales in a renascent segment.

And “Strong” has been the theme of an emotional advertising campaign in which Chevy has attempted to invoke some of the same kind of response as legendary earlier truck campaigns such as “Like a Rock.”

But while seeking to “honor” Boston fans with a promotion staged in St. Louis, Chevy apparently didn’t see the contextual forest for the trees. “Can you imagine them even thinking of doing this at Fenway Park?” Yahoo.com sports blogger David Brown wrote.

The commercial use of “Boston Strong” already had begun to grate on some people even before this week, according to Bloomberg Businessweek and Brown. “Even some of the Red Sox players have riffed on the phrase, making workout T-shirts with a little weightlifting guy that say ‘Boston Strong,'” Brown wrote. Fenway Park has emblazoned a “B Strong” logo in its outfield, as well—a stunt that some Bostonians are calling a stretch of the real intention of the phrase, which is to raise money for victims through the One Fund Boston. 

Still, Chevy could have been expected to have its antennae out on any undesired fallout from “Silverado Strong.” After all, it was less than two months ago that some brand marketers got burned by attempting to leverage 9/11 tributes to sell their wares, including AT&T. Nike, too, pulled some of its Red Sox/Yankee rivalry products off of shelves in April in light of the tragedy. 

And the lesson of the dangers of contextual relevance is learned again, this time by Chevrolet. 

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