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Invacare Taps Arnold Palmer for DRTV to Build Awareness

Invacare aims to build a brand name for its motorized wheelchairs and scooters by using golf great Arnold Palmer as celebrity spokesman in a $5 million DRTV campaign that began this week.

Invacare did not use celebrities in a previous DRTV campaign for its scooter and motorized wheelchair products, relying on the strength of the product and the ability of DRTV to show the products in action.

Now the company, which specializes in home medical care products, has decided the time is ripe for a celebrity spokesperson, said Susan Elder, director of marketing communications for Invacare, Elyria, OH. A celebrity could help Invacare achieve brand recognition in an open product field, she said.

“We're still in a relatively unknown product category,” she said. “Consumers don't have brand awareness of any particular brand.”

Invacare's scooter and wheelchair products are aimed at consumers 50 and older. They are marketed as a benefit not only to the targeted consumers but also to the older seniors who may be in their care.

Elder said she tried contacting celebrities individually, but with little success. She contracted with Cleveland-based International Management Group to find one.

Palmer was the clear choice for a product marketed around the notion of helping seniors live an active lifestyle, Elder said. At age 72, Palmer this month played in his last Masters tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, and he remains active in his sport.

“This is a person who could really bring us brand recognition and identity,” she said. “He lived his whole life with the 'Yes, you can,' mentality, which is our tag line.”

Remington Productions, Cleveland, produced five spots for the campaign. They include two sets of 30- and 60-second advertisements, with one set focusing on the wheelchair and the other on the scooter, and a 120-second spot that features both.

In addition to Palmer, the spots feature disabled athletes playing sports in wheelchairs as well as Invacare customers using the company's products in their daily lives.

In previous DRTV efforts, Invacare included a toll-free number and divided inbound calls among its nationwide network of dealers who carry its products. Because of recent changes to federal medical privacy laws, Invacare is forbidden from collecting personal data from consumers itself and transmitting it to a third party, so it can't use the old strategy.

The company is dealing with this issue by customizing the DRTV spots for its dealers, including voice-over and contact information tailored to the individual dealers. It is being run as a co-op marketing campaign in which the dealers split the cost of media placement with Invacare and pay a nominal fee for customization costs.

About 500 dealers out of Invacare's network of 12,000 agreed to participate, Elder said. Though Invacare declined to disclose its revenue goal, the company hopes to do well enough to persuade another 500 dealers to sign on.

Invacare previously had the most success with a mix of 60-second and 120-second DRTV spots, Elder said. The company is offering 30-second spots to accommodate dealers in major markets where media is more expensive.

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