by Michael Dickens
Automakers are typically the biggest spenders when it comes to Super Bowl advertisements; they like to use America’s Big Game and stage to grab our attention, both through heart-tugging stories and in making ambitious statements.
On Sunday, during Super Bowl LI, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV did both. It wove a colorful story about the proud history of Alfa Romeo as it unveiled three new ads in hopes of reviving this Italian sport-luxury brand for an American audience.
The first Alfa Romeo ad aired with 2:21 left in the second quarter, and the Atlanta Falcons leading the New England Patriots 21-0. Titled “Riding Dragons,” the 60-second commercial spotlighted the revival of the 105-year-old Alfa Romeo brand, which FCA has been trying for several years to re-launch in the U.S. It featured the Alfa Romeo Giulia, a European sedan that just recently went on sale for the first time here since 1995.
“When we were young, we wanted to be epic,” a male voice announces during the first Alfa Romeo spot. “We rode on the backs of dragons and dreamt of flying cars.” The commercial nicely incorporates images of children living and learning – including kids at play and at dance practice, plus the simple amazement of a rocket taking off for space – as well as the past and future of the iconic Italian auto brand. There is a can’t-miss close up of Alfa Romeo’s familiar crest – featuring a green, dragon-like serpent on one side, facing a red cross against a white background representing the flag of Milan on the other. The underlying theme of this ad suggests a company that has enjoyed growth while remaining true to its Italian racing heritage. “Staying true to who you are is all that really matters.”
The second Alfa Romeo ad aired with 2:05 left in the third quarter and Atlanta ahead 28-9. Titled “Dear Predictable,” this 30-second spot featured a sultry female voice reading a letter whose message was clear – “The Giulia is different” – about the reintroduction to an American audience of this history-rich Italian brand.
There’s no other way to say this.It’s over.I found a permanent escape from monotony.Together we are perfectly balanced.Our senses awake.Our hearts racing as one.I know this is sudden, but they say if you love something, set it free.See you around,
Say goodbye to predictable, the ad suggests. Leave it behind. The visuals, created by Dallas, Texas-based The Richards Group, combines beautiful countryside scenery with tight, colorful racing shots of the speeding, red four-door mid-sized sedan.
The third ad, titled “Mozzafialto” (in Italian, “to take one’s breath away”), aired in the fourth quarter during the two-minute warning, with Atlanta clinging to a 28-20 lead and New England rallying towards a final score that sent the game into overtime for the time in Super Bowl history. (The Patriots won in overtime, 34-28.)
At first glance, the ad reinforces for the viewer that it’s for a revered Italian brand. Meanwhile, as a sexy-sounding female voice narrates this 30-second spot, the elegant, bright-red Alfa Romeo Giulia is shown speeding along lovely Italian roads, navigating hairpin turns with grace and ease.
The ad’s message is clear: “Some cars take your breath away; only one gives it back.”
FCA, which has been known for its memorable Super Bowl ads featuring rap singer Eminem (2011, “Born of Fire”) and film actor/director Clint Eastwood (2012, “It’s Halftime in America”), as well as voice overs by the late legendary radio newsman Paul Harvey (2013, “Farmer”), TV personality Oprah Winfrey (2013, “Whole Again”) and multi-generational rock star Bob Dylan (2014, “America’s Import”), returned this year with a more traditional focus in targeting the Alfa Romeo Giulia for an American audience that is used to buying German luxury cars such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Typically, FCA has been known for producing commercials lasting 60 seconds or longer, When it aired 2011’s “Born of Fire,” which featured Eminem driving a Chrysler 200 through the streets of Detroit and ending with his memorable line “This is the Motor City, and this is what we do,” it marked the first two-minute commercial in Super Bowl history. So, it came as a bit of a surprise to some that FCA opted this year to show just one 60-second spot while the other two were 30 seconds each.
FCA waited until Friday before confirming on its website its plans to air three spots during the game. As usual, the company remained tight-lipped and did not reveal details about its ads other than to say that the first spot would air during the second quarter; the second in the third quarter; and the third in the fourth quarter. According to a variety of media reports, 30-second Super Bowl spots for this year were selling, on average, for $5 million. However, companies that buy multiple spots or advertise later in the game, sometimes, can save money. Regardless, as usual, FCA wasn’t shy about spending big money to get its message out to the biggest TV audience of the year.
In recent years, FCA has used the Super Bowl as a platform for unveiling ads which combined elements of humor, wisdom and multicultural influence, as well as recognizing brand history. Last year, the Jeep’s rich heritage was spotlighted during a pair of 60-second ads that touted it as FCA’s largest and fast-growing global brand.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Kantar Media, an advertising and market research company, calculated in 2015 that FCA had spent $89.5 million on Super Bowl commercials, not including production costs, since 2011.
This year, FCA was part of a crowded field of major automotive brands who aired commercials during this year’s Super Bowl game, broadcast nationally by Fox, including: Audi, Buick, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. And yet, FCA’s three commercials for its sleek Alfa Romeo brand stood out nicely against its automotive competition. They conveyed an importance for the revival of a historic proud brand; they were colorful; and they were smart.
How did they do? The following morning, “Riding Dragons” was at 535,901 views, with 606 thumbs up. “Dear Predictable” was at 292,814 views, with 285 thumbs up. “Mozzafiato” was at a mere 20,091 views, with 219 thumbs up.
That said, Alfa Romeo had huge gains in car-buying sites. At Edmunds, Giulia traffic shot up by 802% (not quite as good as the Lexus LC500’s 1710% or Kia Niro’s 869%). The results were even better at cars.com (11 times for Alfa Romeo, 73 times for Giulia), Auto Trader (26 times), and kbb.com (50 times). The baselines for Alfa Romeo and Giulia hits were likely very low to start with, but now America knows what the brand — and the car — are.
According to Google Trends, the boost may be short-lived; but then, backed by car reviews and such, Alfa Romeo and the Giulia may find a following.
2015 Super Bowl ads • 2014: Restlessness and Strike2013: Year of the Farmer • Whole Again • Bill Cawthon on the Super Bowl adsAlso see: Imported From Detroit • Halftime in America • Chrysler ads
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