NEW YORK -- Jeep is launching a marketing effort featuring an unreleased single from the late pop superstar Michael Jackson.
Fiat Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois is set to announce a partnership with Epic Records CEO L.A. Reid and USA Basketball to launch an ad campaign backed by Jackson singing "Love Never Felt So Good." The unreleased song will be featured on Jackson's upcoming "XSCAPE" album from Epic this month.
Francois -- who has cut a swath through the entertainment and music businesses by casting Bob Dylan, Will Ferrell, Jennifer Lopez, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Clint Eastwood and Eminem in commercials -- said his latest deal brings together two American "icons." Jackson, who died in 2009, still holds the title of best-selling album of all time with 1982's "Thriller."
Francois said he pounced on the "huge opportunity" to link the Jeep brand to a "priceless" unreleased Jackson song.
"Jeep is an American icon as much as Michael Jackson is an American icon," said Francois. "Jeep is timeless as much as Michael Jackson is timeless."
The national ad campaign by agency GlobalHue for Jeep's Altitude Edition models breaks today across broadcast and cable TV networks.
On Tuesday, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne touted the Jeep brand as a key driver of global growth in his five-year business plan. Like Jeep, Jackson was a global entertainer who was just as popular overseas as in the U.S.
"There's nothing more global when it comes to American brands than Jeep," Francois said.
In fact, one of the spots featuring soccer fans clearly has global ambitions -- and the prominence of a group of Brazilian boosters ties it to this summer's World Cup without actually mentioning the event, which is officially sponsored by Hyundai and Kia.
That spot, called "Summer Fans," ties thematically to another spot, "Call of Summer."
Two of the four new 30-second spots feature USA Basketball national team member Kyrie Irving, the star point guard for the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.
One spot shows young Irving driving around in his white Wrangler with the top down. While his buddies look on, he stands up in his Jeep, then shoots a basketball over a chain link fence and through a playground hoop. The crowd goes wild.
GlobalHue is planning an integrated campaign that will include general market, African-American and Hispanic campaigns as well digital ads across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. The campaign will also feature consumer promotions such as the chance to win an all-new 2014 Jeep Wrangler Altitude Edition or trips to USA Basketball exhibition games.
The automaker sells an array of brands, from Chrysler and Fiat to Dodge and Ram. So why link the rugged Jeep brand with an otherworldly entertainment figure like Jackson?
Francois said the move made sense from a strategic and advertising perspective.
The May 13 release of the Jackson album meshed nicely with his plan to launch a more stylish second-tier campaign around Jeep's key summer selling season that went more for the heart than the wallet.
The company's other auto brands are already commercially linked to other songs and/or stars.
'Things Have Changed'
Chrysler used Dylan and his "Things Have Changed" song in a Super Bowl commercial for the all-new Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan from GlobalHue.
Fiat uses Diddy and Pharrell's hit "Happy" in the current "Mirage" spot for the 500L from Doner. And Ferrell and Wieden shot over 70 videos for the Dodge Durango to promote his Ron Burgundy movie sequel, "Anchorman 2."
The Dodge brand has a more "heavy metal/hard rock vibe," Francois said. The Ram pickup truck brand is more country, he said.