In The Drive-In Seat

A unique ‘new’ concept to hit the UK inspires Caroline Harrison this week to think about branding opportunities.

Having watched the movie Grease a gazillion times, I’m more than familiar with John Travolta belting out “Stranded at the drive-in”, having just tried to woo Olivia Newton-John and having had his over-enthusiastic advances rebuffed in a rather painful way.

Sadly, I myself have never had the chance to go to a drive-in movie. There doesn’t seem to be much of a market for it in the UK. Maybe that has something to do with our dismal weather. Or maybe it’s simply because I didn’t grow up in the 1950s… Either way, for me, there’s something eternally ‘romantic’, ‘cool’, ‘American’ or just plain ‘novel’ about the idea of a drive-in movie. All of which is leading up to my telling you about something that recently caught my imagination.

Apparently, a new drive-in movie concept has hit Britain’s capital. The Starlite Urban Drive-In, in East London, lets cinema-goers watch films while seated comfortably in one of a range of shiny new Volvos.

In a city where many people rely on public transport to get around, the good news is that the 25 Volvos are all permanently pre-parked, so (a) you don’t need to drive to the venue and (b) you don’t even need a drivers’ license. A maximum of two people are allowed in each car (how romantic!) and, for £25 per ticket, you get a drink and some popcorn as well as a seat.

Meanwhile, the film’s soundtrack is broadcast through the car’s radio and waitresses on roller skates wheel around taking and delivering food and drink orders (how cool!). The only downside is that tickets seem to be the hottest thing in town – two initial screenings of Grease and Dirty Dancing sold out online in 30 seconds – so my chances of going any time soon are fairly slim.

As the sole provider of the vehicles, Volvo sees the partnership as a good fit for the brand. It also provides a unique and novel opportunity to reach a younger audience that may not have been exposed to the Volvo brand before. So successful has this new concept been that several major film studios have apparently approached Starlite asking them to show their movie premieres, and a number of other companies are keen to get involved with future sponsorship.

When it comes to any kind of promotional, sponsorship or branding opportunity, companies do have to consider their options carefully. Obviously price and anticipated return-on-investment play a large part in the decision, but the arrangement must be relevant to the business, the brand or the company ethos. What’s more, it is also vital that the opportunity puts them in contact with, or firmly places them in the mindset of, their potential target market. But, beyond that, it’s also a great idea to associate your brand with something that’s unique, will have impact and is likely to create a real buzz.

As far as I am concerned, that’s just what Volvo has done here. And, who knows, next time I’m on the lookout for a new car, the fun and funky brand that Volvo would appear to be might just now enter my consideration set. Indeed, it might even prove to be “the one that I want.” (Sorry!)

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