BMW Canada 1M Launch

Off to a Good Start (GOLD)

Client Credits: BMW Group Canada
Kevin Marcotte, Director Marketing
Marc Belcourt, Brand Communications Manager
Jonathan Thomson, Brand Communications Specialist

Agency Credits: Cundari
Brent Choi, Chief Creative Officer
Brian Murray, Senior Writer
Raul Garcia, ACD / Senior Art Director
Alex Manahan, Writer
Andrew Bernardi, Art Director
John Filetti, Digital Designer
Daryn Sutherland, Group Account Director
Ranjan Gill, Account Supervisor
Bandito Brothers, Production House
Mike "Mouse" McCoy, Director
Jamey Scott, Dramatic Audio
Ryan Slavin, Line Producer
Jeff Rohrer, Executive Producer
Media: Media Experts, Kris Davis

Crossover Notes:
All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2013 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at

Crossover Note 1. What a Brand Stands For.
Crossover Note 2. Brand Truths.
Crossover Note 7. Fighting for the Same High Ground.
Crossover Note 9. Turnarounds.
Crossover Note 16. When a campaign stumbles.
Crossover Note 27. Share of Mind, Share of Voice, Spending.
Crossover Note 28. Media Learning.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):June 2011 - December 2011
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: June 8, 2011
Base Period as a Benchmark: June 2010 - December 2010

a) Overall Assessment

This is a case study about a brand taking a stand, raising the bar and reclaiming its essence and leadership position. [Crossover Note 1] It is about the power of creating a halo proposition and the aspirational transfer effect it can have across the entire brand. It is about the influence and force of social debate and dialogue in creating momentum and a groundswell of new and renewed interest in a brand. It is a story of taking a modest media budget and outsmarting versus outspending the competition. [Crossover Note 27]

In the latter part of 2010 and into early 2011, after several years of attempting to broaden its mainstream appeal, BMW found itself with somewhat of an unclear brand essence and with key competitors infringing on their brand territory. [Crossover Note 7] They clearly understood that the foundation the brand was built on – performance and innovation – had to be recaptured, and made a conscious decision to use the launch of the 1 Series M Coupé to do just that. [Crossover Note 16] The challenge was to figure out how to make something much larger out of the launch of a niche and small volume performance vehicle and have it create aspiration, appeal and sales for the entire vehicle line-up. 

BMW had been promoting the “Joy” of driving their vehicles in mass communications for long enough that, while the positioning was resonating with some new customer profiles, the brand driver of performance had noticeably dropped off and had impacted consumer perception. This brand issue was further exacerbated by the fact that, in parallel, BMW’s key competition (MB and Audi) had brought their “super cars” to the forefront of their communications, creating a halo effect that helped boost sales of their higher volume vehicles. Someone purchasing an entry/mid-level Mercedes-Benz or Audi could look to the MB SLS or Audi R8 and feel reassured that their less expensive vehicle shared some of the same advanced engineering. However, BMW did not have a true “super car” in its lineup. With the launch of the BMW 1 Series M Coupé (1M), there was an opportunity to remedy both of these problems by communicating the raw essence of the brand: high performance.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

The business objectives were:

  1. Reinforce BMW’s leadership position in performance, innovation and exclusivity.
  2. Halo the BMW brand and M sub-brand to strengthen the key brand strength indicators. 
  3. To sell out Canadian 1M allocation (210 units) every month of production (April 2011 – March 2012)
  4. To increase M sales in CY 2011 over CY 2010
  5. To increase BMW volume vehicle sales in CY 2011 over CY 2010 post 1M campaign launch.

The marketing and communication objectives to achieve this were:

  • Build awareness for the M Brand,
  • Introduce the 1 Series M Coupé (1M) to Canada
  • Use 1M to halo the BMW brand.

c) Annual Media Budget
$1 - $2 million

d) Geographic Area
English Canada

a) Analysis and Insight

BMW’s roots had always been grounded in the sheer joy of the drive – a “driver’s” car first and foremost. Its DNA is one of raw, exhilarating performance and is supported with a rich, authentic history and racing heritage.

So, while “performance” language and claims in the luxury automotive category had become and remain commonplace, we understood that believability of performance truly belonged to BMW and this was going to give us back our competitive edge. [Crossover Note 2] We just had to get back to it with authenticity, with passion, and with simplicity of messaging.

To generate the momentum and bigness this campaign needed, we knew we had to capture the hearts, minds and imaginations of those who “get it” – not just BMW advocates but car enthusiasts at large – those who intuitively understood the BMW brand and what it was all about. This was about showing, and not telling, what BMW performance is all about. And it was about letting not just the car speak for itself, but getting others to speak on its behalf.

The insight really was that car enthusiasts love to engage, research, keep abreast of the latest news and technology and demonstrate their expertise and knowledge. We also knew that car enthusiasts do the majority of that research online and that they are heavily engaged with on-line blogs and discussion forums.

b) Communication Strategy

Spark a discussion – heck, ignite a debate.

There was a lot of buzz internationally around the design and production of the 1M in the lead up to its launch. While the bulk of car enthusiasts were highly anticipating the arrival of the 1M, there was some online debate and chatter that the 1M would not be able to deliver true M performance – that it wasn’t a “true” M vehicle.

We set out to leverage that buzz and discussion, capitalize on it and provide the audience a platform upon which to debate even further. The aim was to inspire and facilitate others to join in the conversation.

a) Media Used

  • Youtube: videos
  • Cinema: Full motion pre-show
  • Online: Rich-media and Standard online banners, mobile ad units as well as a YouTube homepage takeover
  • Magazine: Full-page and DPS layouts for six publications
  • OOH/TSA boards: Five static boards, one vertical airport column (TSA style)
  • Business Elevators

b) Creative Discussion

We had great insight and a sound strategy. But we needed a big idea that could overcome our modest media budget and get us noticed in an impactful, hard to ignore way. So we set out to create intense, jaw dropping, performance fuelled car videos – the “MPowered” precision performance films. The films would be not only aspirational, breathtaking and exhilarating in and of themselves, but would push the limits of reality to really give people something to talk about and – importantly – provide our audience the opportunity to engage beyond just a video view or like.  

The first film, entitled “Walls”, showcased the precision performance of the BMW 1M as it drifted through 1M-sized holes in concrete walls. Part Two, “Helipad”, showcased the 1M’s short wheelbase as it flirted with disaster by drifting right to the edge of the world’s highest rooftop helipad atop the US Bank Building. 

We made a purposeful point to not use supers on the films themselves, instead electing to put any “call to action” or explanations in the videos’ YouTube descriptions. We assessed that this added to the films’ authenticity, made them feel less like “ads”, and made them more likely to go viral. Also, the sound design was intentionally raw, relying on the roar of the 1M's engine and squealing tires to provide the films' soundtrack.

To further create a halo effect on the full range of BMWs and to fuel the debate, we released behind the scenes images of the BMW RR 1000 (motorcycle) and BMW X6 M (SAV) with camera equipment attached to them on the day of the shoot. This subtly implied that only BMW performance could keep up with a BMW to record all the action.

We set up a BMW Canada YouTube brand channel to house the 1M films – along with other videos featuring the full BMW lineup. In only one week our channel had surpassed the Audi brand channel’s total number of views, which had taken Audi over two and a half years to accumulate. (To date the BMW Canada brand channel has over 10 million views, Audi Canada 220,000 and Mercedes-Benz Canada 196,000.)

Two weeks after releasing the “Walls” film, we launched rich media banners to drive additional traffic to the BMW Canada YouTube Channel to help sustain the buzz. This was further supported by a teaser video that ran in cinemas and on digital boards, as well as magazine insertions and billboards.

c) Media Discussion

The campaign had a total media budget of CDN $900,000. We uploaded the first video, “Walls,” on June 8, 2011 with no paid media advertising support and continued to hold off on any paid media for a period of 2 weeks.

Confident the video would find its own traction and momentum, and with some blog outreach in the first days, we watched intently as the chatter started and the number of views began to climb and then soar. Two weeks in, we layered on a paid media plan combining some innovative elements with more traditional elements including:

  • Cinema: Full motion pre-show
  • Online: Rich-media and Standard online banners, mobile ad units as well as a YouTube homepage takeover
  • Magazine: Full-page and DPS layouts for six publications
  • OOH boards: Five static boards, one vertical airport column (TSA style)
  • Business Elevators

Cognizant that in the face of a small paid media investment every element had to work exceptionally hard, all ad units consistently teased the video and drove traffic to YouTube. [Crossover Note 28]

In 8 days, we had surpassed 1 million views. By week two, we had surpassed 3 million views. And by the end of June we were the #1 automotive video on Youtube. That was when we launched Video #2. “Helipad” went live on June 27th and re-ignited the interest in the campaign. By mid-July, both films had combined for 4 million+ views.

a) Sales/Share Results

The campaign has been a resounding success against all objectives [Crossover Note 9]:

  • BMW’s leadership position strengthened in performance, innovation and exclusivity.  BMW emerged #1 in Brand Strength versus Mercedes Benz, Audi, Lexus.  (The lead over the competition is the highest of all BMW markets globally.) *  Source: BMW Brand Research
  • BMW reported stronger than, or equal to, the competition on all facets of the key BMW Brand Strength Indicators with those attributing to 'performance' scoring off the charts. * (BMW Canada is one of the few markets globally to be in such a powerful position.) Source: BMW Brand Research
  • The 1 Series M Coupé was effectively introduced to Canada and, as a result, all 210 units were sold – the bulk of them pre-sold before the vehicle arrived.
  • Increase +12% in M sales in 2011 vs. 2010.  +19% vs. 2011 sales target for M sales.
  • BMW Canada was the #1 M Market globally in 2011 for M sales as a percentage of total BMW sales versus #4 worldwide in 2010
  • It drove 3 successive months of record-breaking sales for BMW post launch (June 2011 vs June 2010; July 2011 vs July 2010; August 2011 vs August 2010)
  • BMW Canada realized its most successful ever year of sales in Canada in 2011 and finished the year in the #1 position in the premium automotive segment beating Mercedes-Benz by an incredible 1,191 units.  Source: AIAMC – vehicle sales
  • It exploded in the social media engagement and public interest spaces

* These brand monitor score increases were not part of a larger global trend; this was distinct to the Canadian market. 

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

There is a direct link between the advertising and the sales results for BMW post launch:

  • Waiting lists for the 1M at BMW dealerships began to fill up immediately after launching the films.
  • Canada’s entire allocation of the BMW 1 Series M Coupé was almost sold out before it arrived. The remaining vehicles sold out soon after.
  • BMW realized its most successful, 3 consecutive month sales in its history in June (up 17% from June 2010 and outselling Mercedes by 700 units), July (outselling Mercedes by 434 units) and August.
  • To put the significance of this into greater context, Mercedes-Benz was #1 in sales in the premium automotive segment in 2010 and had outsold BMW every month from January to May 2011.  Following the 1M campaign launch, BMW outsold Mercedes-Benz every remaining month of 2011.  There were no new major BMW vehicle launches in this year.
  • BMW Canada created the most successful BMW viral video of 2011 and the 7th most successful in the automotive industry – globally!

The films have reached some incredible milestones:

7 Million+ views to date.

2,500+ YouTube comments*

18,000+ Tweets.

1,200+ blog posts.

400+ news mentions.

500,000+ Facebook shares.


The films have received coverage from publications the likes of:

  • The Huffington Post
  • The Globe & Mail
  • Adweek
  • Devour
  • Communication Arts
  • Marketing Magazine

And coverage was received from an uncountable number of car magazines and blogs, including Top Gear UK and Top Gear Australia, and received a full-page article in the Financial Post.


The campaign has been recognized by international and national award shows such as:

  • Cannes
  • D&AD
  • Clios
  • LIA Awards
  • The Webby’s
  • Marketing Awards
  • ADCC
  • Applied Arts
  • Bessies
  • Digital Marketing Awards.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

A $900,000 media campaign spend in the automotive launch category is modest by any comparable standards and evaluation.  


There were no price discounts on the 1M.  

Distribution Changes:

There were no increased distribution or geographic coverage influences.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

There were no unusual promotional activity elements attached to the campaign. 

Other Potential Causes: