|Mike Colias covers General Motors for Automotive News.|
You might have seen the new commercial over the weekend that has Shaquille O'Neal's 7-foot-frame folded into a Buick LaCrosse.
The 15-time NBA All Star appeared last year in another LaCrosse spot. But no, he's not Buick's first official celebrity endorser since parting ways with Tiger Woods in 2010.
The Shaq commercials are part of a broader campaign that uses a variety of one-off celebrity pitches. Another heavily used spot has Peyton Manning calling "audibles" to his Verano's OnStar system to route around a construction zone.
It's no secret that Buick is badly in need of an image overhaul. The campaign tries to do that by having celebrities talk about brand attributes that might surprise consumers who haven't been paying much attention to Buick lately. (And there are plenty of those folks.)
The Shaq spot seeks to quash the notion that a largish sedan like the LaCrosse must be a gas guzzler -- it gets "36 mpg highway" Shaq intones. Manning's shows voice-activated technology that most wouldn't associate with their grandparent's Buick. In another, supermodel Marissa Miller shows off the styling of the Enclave crossover.
The commercials have gotten heavy use by Buick's regional dealer marketing groups to support a 24-month lease promotion. Each spot includes a tag line like this one from the Miller spot: "If you don't know the smart and sexy Enclave, then you don't know Buick."
It's a thoughtful use of celebrity in advertising. Rather than locking yourself into one pitchman, use multiple celebrities to tell the parts of your brand's story that are suited to them.
It also fits with Buick's positioning as an approachable luxury brand. Shaq and Manning are infinitely more likeable than the prickly Woods.
It's just too bad Buick doesn't have flagship sedan larger than the LaCrosse. Shaq looks a bit scrunched sitting in that front seat.