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Subaru, L.L. Bean Team Up Under Outdoorsy Image

Subaru of America, Cherry Hill, NJ, and L.L. Bean, Freeport, ME, are hitting the open road together as a result of a marketing partnership announced last month in which Subaru becomes the official vehicle of L.L. Bean and Bean, in turn, becomes Subaru’s official apparel outfitter.

It’s the first relationship of its kind for either company in an era of increased partnership marketing and alliances between companies in disparate industries. The two companies, however, do share one common thread: a rugged, outdoorsy image. Subaru was the first company to introduce all-wheel-drive passenger cars in the United States in 1974, long before the term “sport utility vehicle” was coined.

The heaviest marketing push will surround the unveiling of its new 2001 Subaru Outback Limited L.L. Bean edition, debuting at the New York Auto Show in April. The special Outback, which goes on sale in the fall, will be promoted first through direct mail this summer, followed by print, radio and Internet advertising in 2001 by advertising agency Temerlin McLean, Dallas, according to Tim Bennett, national marketing manager at Subaru of America.

“Direct mail will begin in the July/August time frame,” said Bennett. “Direct mail will obviously go out first to target our best customers.” He said Subaru will first identify target customer prospects by analyzing Subaru’s and L.L. Bean’s databases. The mailing will initially be smaller and more strategically focused, and will increase as production and demand grow, according to Bennett.

L.L. Bean, the granddaddy of apparel and outdoor-gear marketers, will carry Subaru advertorials (advertising that includes editorial content) as one- and two-page spreads in its catalog. Subjects covered will include outdoor sports such as skiing and kayaking. The reach will be significant: L.L. Bean sends out more than 150 million catalogs yearly. It will also feature the co-branded Subaru Outback at retail outlets. Subaru, in turn, will provide L.L. Bean visible presence at its sponsored outdoor events, such as Subaru Outback Rendezvous and Subaru Gorge Games. The automotive marketer will also sell L.L. Bean’s clothing and outdoor gear through its dealers.

Subaru and L.L. Bean are both corporate sponsors of Leave No Trace, Boulder, CO, a nonprofit organization that seeks to preserve the nation’s parks and forests by educating campers and hikers about cleaning up after themselves. “We both have this philosophy of cause-related marketing,” said Bennett. “We provided the vehicles, and L.L. Bean provided the clothing.” Trainers travel the country, stopping at sporting goods stores and other outdoor venues and preaching the preservation message.

Although Subaru did talk to other companies about co-branding, it settled on its first choice, L.L. Bean, for a variety of reasons, including its experience working together on Leave No Trace. “We talked to other companies besides L.L. Bean to do due diligence, but we both had a gut feeling about each other,” said Bennett. “Their philosophy about the outdoors matches ours.”

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