Nissan hits the beach to build database

Every weekend since the beginning of June, revelers at Ontario weekend destinations, like Sauble Beach, Wasaga Beach and the Elvis Festival in Collingwood, have been catching glimpses of a gaggle of colourful visitors, wheeling their way through the crowds. The visitors - a fleet of Nissan cars decked out in sunny yellow paint and decaled in Nikon and Bolle logos - are part of a promotion for the Toronto-based auto manufacturer.

Every weekend since the beginning of June, revelers at Ontario weekend destinations, like Sauble Beach, Wasaga Beach and the Elvis Festival in Collingwood, have been catching glimpses of a gaggle of colourful visitors, wheeling their way through the crowds. The visitors – a fleet of Nissan cars decked out in sunny yellow paint and decaled in Nikon and Bolle logos – are part of a promotion for the Toronto-based auto manufacturer.

The promotion is designed to build Nissan Canada’s communications database by grabbing traceable consumer e-mail addresses.

Comprised of a dozen students from the Canadian Automotive Institute out of Georgian College in Barrie, Ont., members of the Nissan Summer Patrol groove with beach bums (and even The King himself), introduce them to the cars and distribute sequentially numbered game cards to the weekend partiers.

Participants can win prizes if they enter the contest online (thus supplying their e-mail address, plus other vitals) at the Patrol’s Web site, www.summerpatrol.nissan.ca, which was designed by Adeo Communications of Toronto.

Over a two-month span, last year’s pilot reached an estimated 600,000 individuals, plus 16% of the 19,900 contest cards were registered on the Web site. This year, the numbers have doubled. Approximately 30,000 cards have been distributed, and to-date, just over 32% of all game card recipients entered the contest online, which closes on Labour Day.

‘Last year, we went into this with our eyes closed, but this year we’re matching the cars better to the events, there are more people involved and we’re going to more sites,’ says Jean-Luc Lemire, manager of events and promotions for Nissan Canada. ‘This is a very active promotion. Some of our [automotive] competitors park their cars in front of a theatre, for example, but cars can’t talk. We, on the other hand, invite people to experience the cars and introduce people with a matching lifestyle to the appropriate automobile.’

Aimed at a more adventurous crowd (both male and female), aged between 25 and 55, the Summer Patrol has evolved over the last year, according to Ian Malcolm, president of Toronto’s Desperado Marketing, which designed and executed the Patrol.

‘We found some things that worked and some that didn’t. Last year we went to more community events, but this year the Patrol is more sporting-event focused,’ he says.

Lemire explains that although the Elvis Festival isn’t exactly the sportiest of events, the Patrol showed up among the sideburned fanatics because it was a family event where they could distribute information on Nissan’s family vehicles, like the Altima and the Maxima.

Prizes include a one-year lease on a new 2002 Nissan Xterra as well as prizes from its partners Helly Hansen, Bollé Canada, EMI Music Canada, Tecnica and PowerBar. These all are brands that Nissan works with year round on other events, so as to keep its partner branding consistent.

Plus, Nissan wanted to up the prizing. Since the Summer Patrol’s theme was outdoor activity, prizes like inline skates from Tecnica and Helly Hanson’s summer gear (shorts and shirts) were a logical match.

Patrol staff have also been cross-promoting Nikon’s new Coolpix digital camera. In keeping with the interactive experience, Patrollers have doubled as shutterbugs: they’ve been snapping pictures at every event and posting a selection of shots in the Nikon Digital Gallery at the Patrol Web site – most notably lots of shots of Elvis impersonators posing in front of the colourful Patrol fleet.