Photos: Ray Ally
Take one of the smallest cars you can buy in China and one of the biggest basketball stars in America and put them together. Then you get the new multi-million dollar advertising campaign from Smart cars in China.
Basketball and cars may seem an odd combination, but they are two of the most popular topics among China’s urban young. Signing NBA star Kobe Bryant as brand ambassador for Smart is a high profile and popular choice. His Lakers number No. 24 shirt is the top selling NBA shirt in China. But at six foot six he is hardly the obvious choice for the small two-seater car.
However, that’s what makes him such an inspiring and unusual candidate. Playing on the juxtaposition in size between him and the car. The new campaign called “Big, In The City” has this idea as its core theme. Using headlines like “Big in the world, big In the city and “Made to play, made to win”.
I visited my local Smart showroom to check out the cars, and took my wife who has always been a fan of the car. She especially liked the Brabus Coupe version that Kobe drives in the advert. At six foot tall I could easily fit in the car, but I am sure Kobe would of found it a little snug. The only problem for my wife was that you cant fit a baby seat in the car so that cancelled out any decision to buy one for now.
The Smart Car brand only entered the China market in April 2009 and has since sold 4,000 units. Coming from Mercedes-Benz it has good safety features for its size and the design is modern and contemporary. However, as a lifestyle car brand it has stiff competition from BMW’s Mini and VW’s Beetle, which both offer four seats.
The new Smart Car commercial is shot in New York, which gives the car an international appeal. However there are several Chinese elements woven into the story about a thief who steals a painting from a Chinese art gallery. You can watch the video here how Kobe saves the day. The ad is silly rather than smart but it is nicely shot. And it does work on one level of connecting Kobe and basketball to the car brand.
The Smart Car is not for everybody, but it occupies a unique space in a crowded car market in China. It’s positioned as a lifestyle car for trendy urban drivers, which supports its niche premium strategy. Although it’s aimed at a unisex consumer I have only seen a lot of women driving this car, probably as it has a cute design appeal. It’s also easy to drive and most importantly easy to park, which would be a definite choice for my wife. If only it had somewhere to put the baby.