Mercedes-Benz Makes Super Bowl Debut in Bid to Take On Lexus

Read More at: Bloomberg

Mercedes-Benz, attempting to grab an edge in the race to topple Lexus, enlisted tennis star Serena Williams and a tweeting mom from suburban Chicago to add online buzz to its first appearance at the Super Bowl.

BMW and Volkswagen’s Audi will also air ads during the Feb. 6 broadcast of the National Football League championship between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers, marking the first time all three German luxury brands are advertising at the biggest U.S. television event. At last year’s game, advertisers paid $3 million for a 30-second slot, according to The Nielsen Co.

“The Germans are seeing Lexus as vulnerable, so they’re pulling out all the stops,” said Bill Visnic, an analyst at U.S. auto website The failure to beat Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus has been “a burr under the saddle” of the German automakers in the 11 years since Lexus snatched the top spot.

BMW, Daimler AG’s Mercedes and Audi, the top-three luxury brands, dominate sales everywhere except the U.S., where Lexus gained popularity with its sport-utility vehicles and hybrids. The Super Bowl campaigns underscore their growth ambitions in the world’s biggest luxury-car market, as Lexus seeks to shake off the effects of Toyota’s recalls last year.

The intensity of the competition is evident in a new Audi ad, which features a Mercedes S-Class. In the 60-second spot, which began airing Jan. 13 as a run-up to Audi’s fourth straight Super Bowl campaign, the lights in the Mercedes sedan turn off as the narrator says, “Goodnight old luxury.” The ad then promotes Audi’s A8 flagship as the face of “new” luxury.

BMW bought two 30-second spots as it advertises at the Super Bowl for the first time in 10 years, Jim O’Donnell, head of BMW’s U.S. unit, told reporters at the Detroit auto show.

The Munich-based company on Jan. 21 started a Facebook contest around its Super Bowl commercial featuring the revamped X3 SUV, which is built in South Carolina. Contestants try to guess the configuration of the car to be featured to win a two- year lease and a trip to the factory.

Mercedes will push a younger, hipper image by focusing on sporty new models. The spot will feature a roadster version of the $185,750 SLS supercar, the new C-Class coupe as well as the revamped CLS luxury four-door coupe and SLK hard-top roadster, spokeswoman Donna Boland said.

In addition to the spots, Mercedes is sponsoring a tweet race in which teams driving specially-equipped vehicles need to generate traffic on Twitter to win a C-Class coupe. The four two-person teams will have to generate about 10 tweets per mile, or about 15,000 tweets, to reach Cowboys Stadium from respective starting points in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Tampa.

The three-day race, which starts Feb. 2, features hip hop artist Rev Run from the group Run-D.M.C., tennis star Serena Williams, rock musician Pete Wentz and New York Yankees baseball player Nick Swisher as coaches to drum up traffic. The celebrities each have more than 1 million Twitter followers.

Jennifer Marshall, the 38 year-old Chicago-area mother of seven-year-old twins (who tweets and blogs under the tag nuckingfutsmama) turned to Twitter as “a way of getting that instant feedback that a stay-at-home mom doesn’t get,” she said. She and teammate Meredith Sinclair, fellow mom tweeter known as Hoo-Dee-Hoo, will drive a diesel-powered GL SUV to the game, while their husbands watch the kids.