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Infiniti plans full-court press for March Madness

Thu, 10 Mar 2011

Infiniti plans to keep its name--and especially its new M hybrid sedan--in front of basketball fans for the next few weeks as a sponsor of NCAA Men's Basketball Division I championship.

Under a multi-network advertising deal with NCAA, CBS Sports and Turner Sports, Infiniti will run a total of 170 TV spots of up to 60 seconds each over the next four weeks of March Madness basketball playoffs on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV networks, says Kathy Roznowski, a marketing manager at Infiniti. Of those 170 spots, at least 100 will be for the new hybrid sedan, the luxury brand's first, starting March 17.

U.S. sales for the M Hybrid are expected to be modest, below sales of the regular M. The M Hybrid has a sticker price of $54,575 including delivery. But Infiniti executives are counting on the hybrid to provide a technology halo to the brand this year. Infiniti wants to distinguish itself as a stylish, technologically advanced luxury marquee.

The brand has been on a growth streak, with a 30 percent sales gain in February. Sales of the M, its largest car, rose almost 22 percent to 2,055 for the first two months of this year.

But the new hybrid version, which goes on sale in April, represents more to the brand than incremental sales. Many luxury consumers will not even put a brand onto their list of shopping considerations unless it offers a hybrid model -- regardless of whether or not they intend to buy a hybrid model, says Ben Poore, Infiniti vice president

The heavy basketball-playoff exposure will allow a large audience to see that Infiniti now has a hybrid product.

“It's the right demographics for us,” Roznowski says. “It's Infiniti's target audience.”

The playoffs draw a large TV and Internet audience of college graduates and higher-income families, she says, adding, “And the timing is right for the hybrid launch.”

By Lindsay Chappell- Automotive News