SBJ/February 6-12, 2017/In Depth

Just for Kicks: Nissan uses Rio rebrand for vehicle debut

For about two months last summer, Arena Hotel Copacabana became Hotel Nissan Kicks.
Photo by: BEN FISCHER / STAFF
By signing the contract as official automaker of the summer Olympics, Nissan put 4,500 moving billboards onto the streets of Rio. But pushing for market share in a country where it’s a niche player, Nissan went all-out on a brand play around the Olympic footprint. The epicenter of its branding efforts was a temporary naming-rights deal with Arena Hotel Copacabana, which renamed the beachfront luxury spot the “Hotel Nissan Kicks” for nearly two months during the Olympics and Paralympics. Nissan officially launched the Kicks, a new SUV, at the Games.

Who did the deal? Gerhard Fourie, Nissan’s general manager for global brand strategy, led the team executing in Rio. After signing with Rio2016 in early 2012, Fourie signed a deal with Arena Hotel for naming rights in 2013.

How did the discussions get started? “We took some time to evaluate all the options that were there, and we knew one thing: The Olympics are a very crowded and busy space, and you had to have something unique that would break through, and needed to be done on an Olympic scale,” said Nissan Chief Communications Officer Jonathan Adashek. Also, Nissan knew it would require a deal with a large hotel for its hospitality anyway, and this was a logical extension.

How did the activation work? The Arena Hotel was set up as Nissan’s home base for all of its VIP and business hospitality operations, hosting a news conference with Usain Bolt’s parents one day and allowing media camera crews to shoot from its spectacular rooftop terrace. Other sponsors did the same in hotels up and down the beach front, but Nissan also installed its own billboards on the outside of the Arena Hotel, painting “lane lines” to mimic a swimming pool up the 13-story facade, and displayed its new Kicks model on the sidewalk. It became a branding opportunity as well as a hospitality location. Nissan says its Brazil market share is up a percentage point, from 3 percent to 4 percent, since the Games.

Why was it unique? It’s a new twist on naming rights. Rather than attempt to change the world’s preferred name of a stadium or college bowl game in a long-term deal, Nissan simply focused on a short period of time around a property that it was going to use extensively anyway.

Why do we like it? Conversations at the Olympics always circle back to logistics and locations, especially in sprawling host cities like Rio. Fans and business people alike are always asking, “Where are we meeting?” or “Where are you?” With Hotel Nissan Kicks, Nissan itself became an answer to that question, distinguishing itself along a row of similar beachfront hotels, hosting similar corporate activities, in a short period of time.

— Ben Fischer

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