What have horses got to do with Shane Warne, Michael Klim and Matt Preston? The answer is cars, money and Jeep.
As in, someone stages a polo tournament, the celebrities are invited along to tickle media interest and Jeep, with plenty of horsey lifestyle synergy, sponsors the whole show to the tune of a reported one million dollars.
I’m at the Jeep Portsea Polo, a prize date on Victoria’s sporting and social calendar, somewhere a shabby scribbler of motoring articles should feel quite out of place. It’s a fascinating scene, and the Jeep logo is attached to everything from the free panama hats to Matt Preston’s custom menu.
The polo grounds at the very tip of Mornington Peninsula are heaving with a beautiful young crowd, their expensive clothes and perfumes mingling with the dirt-scuffed outfits and pungent equine scent of the real polo people.
Out there on a dusty field men are playing polo on expensive horses. Few spectators seem to care, but hopefully they are assimilating the message from Jeep that its iconic American off-road brand can not only handle the heavy work in the country, but also is right at home in the privileged kind of world polo represents.
Yours to enjoy in a handsome Jeep Grand Cherokee from $43,000.
This so-called, below-the-line marketing activity is practised by most car companies. It promotes brand awareness, owner loyalty and often other specific goals. Audi sponsors Hamilton Island yachting week, Mercedes-Benz links with the grand prix, Kia backs the Australian Open tennis and BMW is into horse-racing and golf.
The big car makers spend tens of millions of dollars a year on their marketing above- and below-the-line. The industry is savagely competitive, and in manufacturing and sales, profit margins are small for the massive size of investments.