This is the summer of automakers’ product placement in Hollywood. But in China that is being taken to a whole new level by Audi on Alibaba’s Tmall e-commerce platform. There, a stable of limited edition Avengers-branded Audi TT models are up for auction. (As we have noted, Audi inked a deal with Disney’s Marvel Entertainment to become an official brand partner of The Avengers: Age of Ultron.)
But this isn’t any old auction. Bidders are required to plunk down 10,000 yuan ($1,613) for the right to duke it online out with other buyers for the custom Audis, each one designed to reflect one of the superheroes. Twenty-one people paid to fight over the Iron Man Audi TT, which had a starting bid of 360,000 yuan ($58,086). The winning bid? 765,000 yuan ($123,433), which didn’t come (sadly) with its own Iron Man phone.
The Iron Man TT closed out the line of Avengers Audi bidding on a high note. The Hulk TT went for 716,800 yuan ($115,656); the Captain America TT, 729,800 yuan.($117,754); the Thor and Black Widow were 696,800 yuan ($112,429). Generic Avengers blue and yellow Audi TTs also sold for over 620,000 yuan ($100,000). With China now minting a new billionaire each week, it’s no surprise the limited edition Audis sold for more than twice asking price.
We noted recently how Alibaba’s Tmall.com has become a laboratory for creative marketing to Chinese consumers. For example, New Zealand apple growers just used an “Apple” promotion to sell 60,000 apples in two hours; in 2013, American cherry growers used Tmall to similarly sell 60 tons of fresh cherries. Tesla only sells its electric vehicles in China through its Tmall storefront.
Audi appears to be experimenting with some Tmall.com buzz creation of its own. The Avengers Audi TT auction is through Audi’s official Tmall store. Audi is smart to further leverage its Avengers partnership in a nation where both brands are wildly popular. The Avengers 2 just passed $200 million at the Chinese box office and Audi’s sales there are booming, with around 500,000 cars a year sold while also maintaining a brand prestige value nearly off the charts.
The Tmall stunt created a good deal of buzz for Audi in the media. News outlets like Ifeng.com’s auto portal noted the auction. And one news site added that the mystery buyers owned the world’s only five such TTs, standing shoulder to shoulder with The Avengers team.