Audi has taken quite a ride with the Marvel superheroes franchise. And even though another brand like Hyundai wants to horn in, the German luxury brand is only doubling down on its relationship in Captain America: Civil War, which opened to a big box office and kind reviews this weekend.
Tony Stark, Iron Man’s alter ego played by Robert Downey, Jr., first drove an Audi R8 and its variations in the Iron Man movie in 2008. Audi was able to use the tech-laden vehicle to add to all the other things that have been going right for the Volkswagen-owned brand in the past several years as the next two Iron Man movies have fared well at the box office.
In the new Captain America flick, which stars both of those superheroes and others from the Marvel stable on various sides of an epic struggle, Stark steps up to a 610-hp RB V10 coupe. But more than that, the new Audi SQ7 performance SUV is another automotive star of the movie. Its climactic scene is a chase in which Captain America, played by Chris Evans, is behind the wheel of an SQ7.
Loren Angelo, director of marketing for Audi of America, thinks the role of the SQ7 is ideal: For all its performance capability and technological sophistication, a family vehicle is whisking Captain America through a spectacular scene in the film.
“It’s perfect to put our brand in these settings and be able to demonstrate how Audi is a component of the action and excitement that the Avengers represent,” Angelo told brandchannel.
With about $200 million in overall brand partnerships, Captain America: Civil War certainly is one of the year’s hottest Hollywood properties for marketing tie-ups. And in other Marvel properties, such as Marvel Netflix productions, other car brands such as Hyundai are stealing a page from Audi attempting to form more organic relationships. But Audi remains in the lead in this arena.
brandchannel talked with Angelo about marketing with Marvel and the evolution of the Audi brand:
bc: It’s interesting to get other Audi vehicles, including an SUV, involved in the Iron Man and Marvel story.
Loren Angelo: Whether it’s the SQ7 or A4 or R8, the brand is a part of the story. Audiences see the four rings and consumers have associated them with movie blockbuster action.
bc: There’s an organic thing going on with the technology in today’s Audi vehicles and the cutting-edge technology represented by superheroes and their gadgets, right?
Angelo: The Avengers represent high-level technology, and Audi is the vehicle that carries them into the action as they are saving the world.
bc: You’ve also got a TV commercial called “The Chase,” featuring a family in an Audi Q7 that finds itself unwittingly in the middle of the movie’s biggest chase scene. How did that happen?
Angelo: It was a unique opportunity to play off one of the critical scenes in the movie. And we were able to release unique footage in our ad. It demonstrates how the Q7 can actually perform in every single challenge that’s thrown at it.
bc: You keep deepening the relationship with Marvel. Where can it go from here?
Angelo: We think this relationship is critical in that we have developed this partnership with them where they’re looking—just like we’re looking—long-term at what they plan to do with that franchise. Having that insight and relationship, they share information about where their brand is going. We feel confident about the level of success they’ll have in the future, just as they feel confident about what we have in our portfolio—that we will have continued momentum in the marketplace. We’ve also built relationships with other movie studios.
bc: One reason the Audi brand has risen to such great heights is that it has been perceived as a “challenger” brand to traditional German luxury, and you’ve certainly played that up. With sales increasing by double-digit percentages every year and Audi brand equity leading the industry by many measures, can you keep selling Audi as that challenger brand?
Angelo: Our brand still needs to strengthen our awareness in comparison to the competition. That’s why high-profile platforms play a critical role not only in launching new cars but also to give our brand new recognition on the biggest stages. But we’re still outspent in marketing 3-to-1 by Mercedes and Lexus.