Since 2008, Subaru of America has fostered a marketing identity built around the idea of love. Now, the automaker is leaning on that emotion in a more active and direct way with its advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Subaru, along with its retailers and two independent distributors, made a donation of roughly $5 million to nonprofit Feeding America, which said the gift will provide 50 million meals to people in need across the U.S.
The automaker has made the donation the center of its newest TV commercial. It launched in late April.
Instead of ads based around vehicles or its lighthearted “Dog Tested” spots that would normally be on TV, Subaru’s advertising mix is being led by the spot that focuses on helping others.
“Vehicle advertising about cars and the reasons you can love our cars has definitely been replaced for a period of time about this bigger message,” Alan Bethke, Subaru’s senior vice president of marketing, told Automotive News.
The 30-second spot is simple and to the point. It’s made up of footage from previous Subaru commercials, including the 2020 Outback marketing campaign, as well as clips from volunteer events that Subaru and its retailers have held.
“We wanted to do something as fast as we could,” Bethke said, noting that there wasn’t enough time for Subaru and its ad agency, Carmichael Lynch, to create a spot with fresh footage. “We wanted to get the support into Feeding America quickly and to make a difference quickly. Part of that was to get the message out quickly.”
Other automakers have also altered their marketing messages during the pandemic.
Toyota began airing a spot titled “We Are Here for You.” Ford and Hyundai released commercials that detailed payment relief options for customers who lost jobs because of COVID-19.
In mid-March, Subaru began discussions about how it would respond to the pandemic from a philanthropic point of view, Bethke said. Subaru, which prides itself on its commitment to companywide volunteerism, as well as its annual Share the Love sales event, which raises money for charities, wanted to make a tangible difference. That led the automaker to Feeding America.
Subaru had worked with Feeding America before and donated around 1.7 million meals from 2015 through 2017, Bethke noted. Feeding America’s network of 200 affiliated food banks in the U.S. gives the organization a large reach, he said, and is a reason why Subaru decided to donate to it.
“We pinpointed hunger due to job loss and companies slowing down as a main society need,” Bethke said.
As for the new commercial, Bethke said there is not an end date.
“I think it is relevant for the situation of COVID and hunger,” Bethke said. “We don’t know how long that’s going to go on. Hopefully, it’s not a sustained thing, but who knows?
“It’s going to be a relevant message as long as unemployment is high, which it currently is, as long as people have lost income, which they have, and as long people are hungry.”