Subaru Forester Family Rally

Subaru Forester Family Rally

Subaru Forester Family Rally

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (BRONZE)

Client Credits: Subaru Canada, Inc.
Ted Lalka, Vice President, Product Planning & Marketing
Geoff Craig, Director, Marketing
Tara Willis, Advertising Manager
Curtis Lang, Assistant Manager, Advertising

Agency Credits: DDB Canada
Todd Mackie & Denise Rossetto, Co-Creative Directors
Michael Davidson, SVP, Business Unit Director
Tony Johnstone, SVP, Strategic Planning; Sandra Moretti, Senior Strategist; Kevin McHugh, Strategist
Pete Ross, Art Director; Allan Topol, Copywriter; Mark Biernacki, Copywriter
Peter Brough, Account Director; Scott Barr, Account Director
Julia Morris, Account Supervisor; Lindy Scott, Account Executive
James Loftus, Account Manager, Public Relations; Greg Vallentin, Senior Consultant
Rose-Ella Morrison, VP, Director of Print & Graphic Services, Ad Rules
Kirk Broadhead, Mac Production Artist, Ad Rules; Jason Taylor, Mac Production Artist, Ad Rules
Jane Davies, Studio Manager, Ad Rules
Michelle Jairam, Client Communication Director, OMD
Jennifer Thompson, Group Director of Strategy, OMD; Tyler Gain, Strategy Supervisor, OMD
Steve Gramlich, Strategist, OMD
Ed Lee, Senior Director, Social Media; Melissa Smich, Senior Cultivator, Social Media
Andrew Schulze, Director of Broadcast Production; Stef Fabich, Producer
Jan Walczak, Designer; Dale McRae, Daniel Wiseman, Information Architect
Neem Ba Ha, Digital Production Manager; Cathy Kim, VP, Integrated Operations & Production
Andrej Simeonov, Senior Interface Developer
Jonathan Kirschenbaum, Editor; Frank Hoedl, Photographer/Retoucher
Daniel Essegern, Michael McDonald, Retoucher
French Partners: Groupe Rinaldi: Jean-Charles Bullot, Creative; Maurice Rinaldi, President
Tanya Fouleman, Account Executive
Vehicles Dynamics Group, Event Management; OPC & Family Style, Production;
Chris Woods & GoodDearGood, Director
Grayson Matthews, Audio House; Jigsaw Casting, Casting Agency;
Posterboy Edit, Post-Production Company; AXYZ, Online Editor; Alter Ego, Colourist;


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months): January 2013 – June 2013
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: March 15 2013
Base Period as a Benchmark: March 2012 – May 2012

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 suffers from a lack of awareness and familiarity within the category. And for those who are aware of the model, Forester is perceived as a “boxy,” outdated, and ugly wagon – a shadow that still lingers from the earlier designs of Forester, many of which are still on the road. SUV intenders rarely consider Forester. 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 abandoning a long-standing winning campaign formula.  

After sales were flat for the majority of 2012, we had to reignite interest in this vehicle and generate sales fast in the competitive SUV segment.

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% for the year vs. 2012 (9,000 cars).

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.

Additionally, 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.

c) Annual Media Budget
Over $5 million

d) Geographic Area
National Canada

a) Analysis and Insight

Through our extensive qualitative and quantitative research, which included a two-week national qualitative research tour, we were able to identify our target and uncover key strategic insights. 

The target was identified as 30-49 year old urban couples who 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, but can also 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 showed that over the years the term “sport-utility-vehicle” had been watered down, to such an extent that the dominant element in the phrase was utility. The sport element of SUV was missing in action!

We reasoned that there was a big opportunity to fill that void with the new Forester and truly redefine what SUV stands for

We had to prove to the target that they could get what they needed in an SUV without having to compromise.

b) Communication Strategy

The communication 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
    • :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 an idea that’s unique and ownable by Subaru – The Forester Family Rally.

To truly bring this campaign to life, we decided to engage 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.



The 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.  



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.




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.






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. 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. Lifestyle focused websites received rally focused creative.


Pre-Roll Units

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.


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.

12325_Cassies_-_Subaru_Forester_Family_Rally_Creative_Elements.013 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

We interrupted conversations and shared the story of our unique rally featuring real families on auto and lifestyle forums to help boost contest entries and spread the buzz.

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”. 



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 next Forester Family rally is being held August 8th. 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 will be flown to Mont Tremblant , where they will compete 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 for our families 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 are designed to reward skilled drivers rather than fast drivers. The family with the most points at the end of the 5 challenges will be crowned the winner of the Forester Family Rally.

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. The Forester experienced record sales of 3,315 vehicles from March to May, which was +27% above target. This was a vast improvement over 2012 Forester sales, when unit sales were -5% below target during the same three month period. Sales for the Forester were up +55% for the campaign period vs. 2012.

The Forester campaign also helped lift the overall Subaru brand to record sales in April and May. Subaru was the fastest growing Japanese manufacturer (+15.4% YTD May), making this the best spring sales period ever.

There were 79,217 unique visits to the microsite from when the website launched in 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 had the most visits and was where users spent the most time online, achieving our objective of increasing online product engagement.

Additionally, the campaign drove a +23% increase in traffic vs. a target of +20%. 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. Additionally, the Forester was propelled to the position of the best selling Subaru vehicle in March and it maintained that position for a full 5 months to-date. It has outsold the next best-selling Subaru model by an average of +41% after trailing the best selling Subaru model by an average of -27% in the months leading up to the campaign.

Since the time of the campaign launch, Subaru has achieved all-time record sales for every consecutive month of the campaign so far. Overall, Subaru was the fastest growing Japanese Auto manufacturer month over month for the entire campaign period (March – May).

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 also maintained its full margin price and offered no special incentives or discounts on the vehicle (i.e. 0% lease/finance, $0 down, gas gift cards, etc.). At the same time the competitors heavily incentivize their SUVs to encourage purchases. The Forester’s pricing sits at roughly 10% higher than that its direct competition. Therefore, the success of the BRZ was not due to a pricing strategy.

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:

There were no other potential causes for the Forester’s success, other than the event and the campaign itself.