Forester Family Rally

Off to a Good Start (SILVER)

Client Credits: Subaru Canada Inc.
Subaru Canada Inc.

Agency Credits: DDB Canada
Todd Mackie & Denise Rosetto (Executive Creative Directors)
Allan Topol & Mark Biernacki (Copywriter)
Pete Ross (Art Director)
Andrew Schulze (Agency Producer), Stefan Fabich (Agency/Digital Producer)
Michael Davidson (SVP, Business Unit Director), Peter Brough (Account Director)
Scott Barr (Account Director), Julia Morris (Account Supervisor), Lindy Scott (Account Executive)
Tony Johnstone (SVP Director of Strategic Planing), Sandra Moretti (Senior Strategist)
Kevin McHugh (Strategist)
Melissa Smich (Senior Cultivator), Ed Lee (Director, Social Media)
Dale McRae & Daniel Wiseman (Information Architects),
Neem Ba Ha (Digital Production Manager), Cathy Kim (VP, Integrated Operations & Production)
Andrej Simeonov (Sr Interace Developer), Nick Bujnak (Designer), Jonathan Kirschenbaum (Editor)
John Stevencec (Print Producer), Rose-Ella Morrison (VP, Director of Print & Graphic Services)
Jane Davies (Studio Manager), Jason Taylor (Mac Production Artist)
James Loftus (PR Manager), Greg Vallentin (PR Senior Consutlant)
French Partners: Groupe Rinaldi
Jean-Charles Bullot (Creative), Maurice Rinaldi (President), Tanya Foulem (Account Executive)
Event Management: Vehicle Dynamics Group
Production Company: OPC & Family Style
Chris Woods & GoodDearGood (Directors), James Gardner (Director of Photography)
Oliver van Beek (Line Producer)
Post Production Company: Poster Boy Edit
Mark Paiva & Danica Pardo (Editors)
Joel Saunders (Online Editor) Axyz, Wade Odlum (Colourist) Alter Ego
Audio House: Grayson Matthews
Casting Agency: Jigsaw Casting
Shasta Lutz (Casting Director)
Production Company: Industry Films
Tamir Moscovici (Director), Erik Wilson (Producer), Jan Walczak (Online Designer)
Joe Dee (Director of Technology)


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):April 2013 – April 2014
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: March 15 2013 (Pre-Launch)
Base Period as a Benchmark: March 2012 – March 2013

a) Overall Assessment

With only 4% market share, Subaru is a small player in the compact SUV category that is dominated by giants. The Subaru Forester fights for attention within the category. And for those who are aware of the model, Forester is perceived as a “boxy,” outdated, and ugly wagon – a barrier that still lingers from the earlier designs of Forester, many of which are still on the road. Despite the success of recent campaigns, Forester purchase consideration still lags behind the big boys. With only a 2.1% share of voice, Subaru has a tough time getting noticed. Something bold and unexpected was required in order to stand out among Subaru’s much larger competitors.


For the 2014 model year launch, there were huge expectations based on the past success of the previous “Sexy Sumo” campaign. The client wanted to achieve even greater results while simultaneously transitioning to a campaign more closely aligned with the new Subaru brand strategy, “Uncommon Sense”.  


After flat sales for much of 2012 and a slow start to 2013, we needed to reignite interest despite no significant model changes. 

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Forester sales were very slow at the beginning of 2013, 15% below the target for January and February. Subaru needed an impactful campaign in order to achieve the 2013 target of +20% (9,000 cars) for the year vs. 2012.


We needed to drive awareness and purchase consideration among small SUV intenders, but our ultimate communication objective was to increase qualified dealer traffic by +20% in order to hit the sales target.


To do that, Subaru wanted to raise engagement levels with the Forester product information online through both as well as the campaign microsite. These were particularly important measures of success that would drive dealer traffic. 

c) Annual Media Budget
Over $5 million

d) Geographic Area
National Canada

a) Analysis and Insight

Through extensive qualitative and quantitative research, we were able to gain deeper insights into our target that could help spur our communication strategy.


The target was identified as 30-49 year old urban couples that were transitioning between life stages and considering a small SUV. They want greater capacity, but reject vans and wagons because they don’t want to sacrifice their active lifestyle. They are looking for something that will provide them with a spirited ride, and can satisfy the more practical reasons for choosing an SUV. They are cognizant of not settling for a vehicle that’s less than thrilling.


Our research revealed that the term “sport-utility-vehicle” had been watered down over the years. “Utility” had become the dominant focus at the expense of  “Sport”. We uncovered a big opportunity to fill that void with the new Forester and truly redefine the true meaning of “Sport” Utility Vehicles. We had to prove to the target that they could get what they needed in an SUV without having to compromise. 

b) Communication Strategy

Based on this strong consumer insight, our campaign strategy became: “The Subaru Forester puts the ‘Sport’ back into SUV”. The Forester is a true SUV with rugged performance, strength, agility, control, and responsiveness. Qualities you attribute to sports, high-performance athletes and qualities that the competition couldn’t match.

a) Media Used


The campaign was brought to life in a variety of different mediums, including:


  • TV
    • 2 flights:
      • Flight 1 TV to push participation (:30 English and French)
      • Flight 2 TV to show what we did (:30 English and French)


  • Print
    • Pre-Launch Activity
    • Campaign Print
    • Product Print
    • Dealership Print Support 


  • POP: Car-toppers, Banners, Pole-Signs, Mirror-Danglers, Wall and Floor Decals, Life-sized Rally Family cardboard cutouts  


  • Online
    • Microsite Hub
    • Banner Ads
    • 15 Second YouTube Pre-Roll Videos
    • Videos on Subaru Canada’s YouTube Channel
    • Interactive Online Video Unit
    • Page Takeovers
    • Homepage Banner


  • Social Media
    • Cultivation & Seeding
    • Blogger & Journalist Outreach
    • Blogger Media Kits


  • Event: Forester Family Rally Event 

b) Creative Discussion

Subaru’s long-standing rally heritage became the perfect platform from which to showcase the new Forester. Nothing in the automobile market says ‘sport’ more than rally racing, and nothing targets families in the Subaru model line-up better than the Forester. Bring ‘Family’ and ‘Rally’ together and you have The Forester Family Rally – a unique and ownable idea that fits perfectly under the new Subaru “Uncommon Sense” brand position. 


To truly bring this campaign to life, we engaged real families to join us for the most unique “test drive” experience ever – a test drive on an actual rally course, done in true rally race fashion.


To bring the concept to the masses, we created an integrated national campaign based on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for adventure-seeking families. Families were able to sign up for their chance to compete in the first ever Subaru Forester Family Rally, which included an all-expense paid experience with an all-new 2014 Subaru Forester as the grand prize.


Real time footage from the preliminary event was used to support the campaign in television, print, radio, online, and social media. All communications directed consumers to a microsite where families could: sign up to qualify for the next Forester Family Rally, watch the reactions of other real families ‘taking on’ a rally course, learn more about the Forester, and sign up for a test drive.


In August, we held the second Forester Family Rally, where participants raced against each other to win an all-new Forester. Footage form this event was used to update the microsite, and produce new TV and online to showcase the event to the public.




The initial TV showcased one of our real families from the first race (one English version and one French version for their respective markets). The commercial featured the mom, dad, and two kids zipping through a muddy rally track in a Forester outfitted with several go-pro cameras to capture their genuine reactions. This non-scripted footage showed viewers exactly what they could expect if they signed up their family for the next race. The TV directed viewers to the microsite where they could sign up for their chance to participate for the next rally race and learn about the new Forester.  


The second TV spot aired in September, and used footage from the second Forester Family Rally event to really drive home the message that the Forester is for families who crave adventure and sport.




In print we featured creative that showed the Forester in action, slashing though a beautiful scenic back-road rally track. The action shots captured demonstrate the Forester’s unique capabilities. The headlines juxtaposed fun family focused messages such as, “our idea of quality family time”, with the rally photography.


In auto magazines, we featured a beauty shot of the Forester with a more product focused messaging that would be more relevant to the medium.


Point of sale


In-dealership support included car-toppers, banners, pole-signs and mirror danglers with an interesting take on the traditional family portrait. In these family photos, the family was covered in mud from the rally course. A life-size cardboard cut out of a family in rally suits covered in mud featured information about the rally.





The online microsite featured a landing page where visitors could watch all the footage from the first rally as well as sign up for the next event.


The team page featured photos of the families, bios, one-on-one interviews and stats from the first race, which included everything from best time, best lap and the heart rates during the race. This fun content both gave people an opportunity to engage with the Forester online, as well as confirm the legitimacy of the event and that we were using real families for our events.   


There was the Forester Product page, which featured a 360 view of the all-new car with informative hotspots presenting videos and images about the features, a photo gallery of images, and the opportunity to sign up for a test drive, find a dealer near you, and even build and price your own Forester.


Throughout the site, there was always a call-to-action present to sign up your family for the next Forester Family Rally.


In the second phase, the site was updated with several ‘mini-videos’ of each stage of the Forester Family Rally events, and urged visitors to sign up for a test drive at their nearest dealership.


Online Banners

Online banners were designed specifically for their placement. All Auto sites received product specific creative, which highlighted key features of the Forester, like X-Mode. Lifestyle focused websites received rally focused creative. And finally, family focused sites received creative depicting the families in the preliminary event and encouraged the viewer to sign their family up for the next race. These were updated with the new families from the second race during the second phase of the campaign. This helped to keep creative fresh and engaging throughout the long span of the campaign.  


Pre-Roll Units

For the first phase of the campaign, two 15-second pre-roll units on YouTube featured everyday family scenarios such as watching TV, or eating breakfast together. The comedic twist in the spots is the male is wearing a rally helmet in these everyday scenarios because he is so excited by the potential of racing in the next Forester Family Rally event.

In the second phase, video from the second rally was used to show case to showcase the event and drive home the “Putting the Sport back in SUV” messaging.


Interactive Video Unit

We partnered with SayMedia to create a unique and interactive video banner unit. When a user hovered their mouse over the unit, a pop up would appear on screen, which featured the Forester from 3 different angles with informative hot spots, a photo gallery and a call-to-action to visit the microsite.


Page Takeovers

Homepage takeovers on major sites including and ensured our message was front and center on those pages. Homepage Banner

The corporate site also featured a banner and link to the campaign microsite to give people the ability to engage further with the Forester.




Cultivation & Seeding


Blogger & Journalist Outreach

We reached out to influential bloggers and journalists in both the automotive world and the parenting/lifestyle world in order to ensure we were reaching our ‘active family’ target. Beyond sharing the campaign, one blogger even took the time to organize a test drive to see if the car delivered on the promise of being the ideal vehicle for a family road-trip adventure.


Blogger Media Kits

To help generate some further earned coverage, each of our targeted bloggers received a wine box marked “vintage” on the outside. Inside was a non-alcoholic family-friendly bottle of carbonated apple cider. The bottles were accompanied by a note that had instructions on how to properly open the bottle rally style, “1) Shake, 2) Spray”.




In the first event, five families were hand picked to compete in the preliminary one-day Forester Family Rally event, which was held in Mission, BC. Families were equipped with full rally gear including a suit, helmet, and even heart rate monitors. The Forester was outfitted with several go-pro cameras to capture all the action, which was included on the microsite and in the TV commercial. 


The second Forester Family rally was held in August. A rigorous screening process was used to determine the five families that would race to win a new 2014 Forester. A random draw reduced the number of entries from 3800+ entrants down to fifty. Each of the fifty entrants were asked to submit a written essay on why they should be chosen to participate in the next rally. Pictures were mandatory, and video submissions were encouraged. We wanted to know what made these families as adventurous, thrill-seeking, and deserving of a chance to win a Subaru Forester. From there, a judging panel voted on the submissions to narrow the field down to the five finalists.


The families were flown to Mont Tremblant , where they competed in a series of rally-inspired challenges designed by the Vehicle Dynamics Group at the motorsport complex Mecaglisse – a unique racing facility that boasts over 15kms of rally tracks that our families had to tackle.


While most people consider a rally to be all about speed, we put the utmost emphasis on maintaining the safety of our participant families. Therefore, the challenges were designed to reward skilled drivers rather than fast drivers. The family with the most points at the end of the 5 challenges was crowned the winner of the Forester Family Rally, and awarded the all-new Forester. Perhaps not coincidentally, our only participating family from Quebec was the ultimate winner! 

c) Media Discussion

Our channel strategy aimed to build awareness quickly with young families. Beyond automotive focused channels, the buy included magazines such as Today’s Parent to reach our family target. The online concentrated on sites covering topics such as parenting, men and women’s interest, and home & garden sites.


The campaign began with a soft-launch in print in March. The full national campaign, including TV, point of sale, digital, and additional print, launched April 8th. The standard online units, social media seeding and cultivation, and blogger outreach started just after the mass launch.



a) Sales/Share Results

To date, the results have been nothing short of phenomenal. Forester experienced record sales of 7,415 vehicles during the campaign period (April – October), which was +26% above target. This was a vast improvement over 2012 Forester sales, selling an average of 397 units per month more than the same period the year prior. This improvement meant that Subaru was up +63% during the campaign period (April – October) versus the previous period.


With no other significant brand activity in market, the Forester campaign also helped lift the overall Subaru brand to record sales during the campaign period, with each month being a “record sales month” for the brand. This outstanding achievement lasted through to November, and helped Subaru to be the fastest growing non-luxury manufacturer in Canada (+20.8% November), making this the best sales year ever for Subaru.


Representing 47% of Subaru’s total marketing spend for 2013, there is no question that the Forester campaign played the primary role in Subaru’s all-time record sales year, selling +18.6% more vehicles than the previous year and surpassing their business plan for 2013 by 3.5%!


There were 79,217 unique visits to the campaign microsite from April until the end May. This drove 3853 entrants into the Family Rally contest. In addition, 777 people signed up to take a test drive on the microsite. This contributed to a +37% increase (vs. the +20% target) in dealer traffic during the campaign period vs. 2012 (March–May). The Forester product page on the microsite had the most visits and was where users spent the most time, achieving our objective of increasing online product engagement. During the second phase, we drove 54,912 unique visitors to the microsite (93% being brand new visitors to the site), 184 test-drive opt-ins and 1,043 clicks to Build & Price and 152 searches in our dealer locator. More amazingly, is that these results were achieved in only four short weeks of paid media!


The campaign drove a +23% increase in traffic vs. a target of +20% in the first three months of the campaign. Plus, for the duration of the campaign (April – October) Dealership showroom traffic was up by an astonishing +32%. And the impact wasn’t just with our direct consumers; our social media outreach led to 6.8 Million impressions generated by bloggers and journalists. 

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

For many reasons, there is a direct cause and effect relationship between the Forester campaign and the sales results from the business period.


Firstly, sales increased significantly as soon as the campaign launched, rising +64% vs. 2012 in march during the pre-launch phase, and 59% in April during the official launch. Before the campaign hit market, Forester sales were down, -16% in January, and -18% in February compared to the previous year.


Additionally, Forester became the best selling vehicle in the Subaru line-up in March, after trailing the lead model, Impreza, by 27% in unit sales. Forester consistently outsold the next best-selling Subaru model by an average of +45% during the campaign period.


Since the time of the campaign launch, Subaru has achieved all-time record sales for every consecutive month to date. Overall, Subaru was the fastest growing non-luxury auto manufacturer month over month for the entire campaign period (April - October), during which the Forester was the only significant campaign in market. 

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

The budget of $6.8M was for media and production combined. By industry standards, this is a small budget, which was inclusive of two full rally events in addition to the mass media campaign.


Subaru maintained its full margin price and offered no special incentives or discounts on the vehicle during the campaign period (i.e. 0% lease/finance, $0 down, gas gift cards, etc.). At the same time the competitors had heavy price incentives in market. Forester’s pricing sits at roughly 10% higher than the competition. 

Distribution Changes:

Furthermore, our distribution levels stayed the same. The number of Subaru dealerships has remained constant at approximately 90 dealers for several years, all dealers carry all models, and there has been no change in specific model distribution.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

The sales results can also be directly related to the Forester campaign because there were no other significant communications, sales or marketing efforts going on during the Forester campaign period. 

Other Potential Causes: