An unusual promotion planned for the Indianapolis 500 is based on the saying that the only difference between men and boys is the size of their toys.
Mattel and Izod plan to have stunt drivers jump off a ramp like this rendering, modeled after a Hot Wheels toy track, at the Indianapolis 500 in May.
Mattel is joining forces with an IndyCar sponsor, the Izod apparel brand owned by the Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation, for a promotion to be centered on a life-size version of the V-Drop track set, sold as part of the Mattel Hot Wheel line of die-cast toys. A member of Team Hot Wheels — a crew of stunt drivers — will try on May 29 to break the current world record for a distance jump in a four-wheeled vehicle (302 feet) by speeding in a life-sized yellow race car down a ramp that resembles the track included with the set.
And just as the V-Drop track set is meant to be hung from a child’s bedroom door, a door 10 stories high, or 100 feet tall, will be built in the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The promotion — formally called Izod Presents Hot Wheels Fearless at the 500 — is an example of what is known as experiential marketing, which seeks to bring brands to life in tangible ways. The goal is to discover new methods to disseminate product pitches because consumers are more able than ever to avoid traditional types of advertising.
This strategy is underlined by the unofficial theme of the promotion, “Hot Wheels for Real,” which is also the name of a sweepstakes that will give away prizes like a trip to the Indianapolis 500.
Among other examples of experiential marketing are temporary retail outlets, called pop-up stores; stage shows presented by Good Housekeeping magazine, under the title “Shine On,” that benefit the National Women’s History Museum; and the recruitment of consumers as brand ambassadors, evangelizing for favorite products.
In this instance, Mattel is seeking to expand the market for Hot Wheels by stimulating interest among men ages 18 to 34. Currently, the toys are aimed at boys ages 3 to 8; men in their 30s or older often rediscover the toys when they have children or develop an interest in collectibles.
“It’s an audience that once had a great connection with Hot Wheels,” said Simon Waldron, vice president of marketing for Hot Wheels at Mattel in El Segundo, Calif.
Until now, “we haven’t served up a good enough reason for them to re-engage with the brand,” he added.
“It’s all about evolving Hot Wheels,” Mr. Waldron said, both for the toys along with expanding into areas that would interest the intended target audience, like clothing, video games and online gaming.
The promotion will be accompanied by a presence in social media like the Hot Wheels and Izod Facebook pages; content on the Hot Wheels Web site; and the appearance of Hot Wheels in an advertorial for Izod in magazines like GQ.
There are also plans for a 30-minute Hot Wheels television show, to appear after the ABC coverage of the Indianapolis 500, that would offer viewers a chance to watch the stunt along with other experiential versions of Hot Wheels. There will be a tie-in with GetGlue, a site that lets users “check in” with TV shows to share what they watch with friends.
Mattel is working on the promotion with Bandito Brothers, a production company in Culver City, Calif., and Mistress, a creative agency in Los Angeles.
“What Mattel wants is for Hot Wheels to be relevant to boys of all ages,” said Damien Eley, a partner and creative director at Mistress who at his previous agency, Mother, worked on experiential initiatives for Coca-Cola and Unilever.
One way to achieve that, he added, is to “offer a connection with action sports and car culture.”
“When you pick up a Hot Wheels car, there’s a combination of imagination and reality,” Mr. Eley said, that is conveyed through the stories told by those who play with them.
And because Hot Wheels cars are built on a 1:64 scale, “in theory, they could be made for real,” he added, which led to the idea of “imagining everything on a life-size scale.”
Izod’s involvement came through its status as the title sponsor of the IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500.
“We both go after a common target audience of young men, next-gen males, as we refer to them,” said Mike Kelly, executive vice president for the marketing group at Phillips-Van Heusen in New York. “As kids, we all played with Hot Wheels,” he added, so bringing up the brand to a teenager or 20-something “takes you back to happy moments as a kid.”
The attempt by Hot Wheels to “reach kids from 5 to 55,” as Mr. Kelly put it, may not be so difficult to achieve. The brand has wide appeal, he said, pointing to “hundreds of videos” on YouTube of V-Drop track sets in action.
The budget for the promotion is not being disclosed. Mattel spent $10.1 million to advertise Hot Wheels last year, according to Kantar Media, a unit of WPP, up from $8.9 million in 2009 but down from $12.3 million in 2008 and $13.3 million in 2007.
Do the creators of the promotion have a Plan B in case something goes amiss?
“There are contingency plans in place,” Mr. Eley of Mistress said, adding, “With an event of this scale, in a place like Indy, you have to have contingencies.”Original Story