DETROIT -- Volvo plans to stage a worldwide treasure hunt online as part of its global sponsorship of Walt Disney Co.'s much-anticipated sequel "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."
"Pirates don't drive cars, but they do love searching for buried treasure," said John Maloney, vice president of communications for Volvo. The Irvine, Calif.-based division of Ford Motor Co. will support the movie in the United States with a TV commercial and online treasure hunt. The commercial breaks June 12 on national cable networks and on spot TV and will air for a month. The film opens July 7.
The spot, from Euro RSCG, New York, to introduce the online sweepstakes that gives consumers a chance to win a custom-made XC-90 shows the SUV being lowered into the ground, along with clips of the movie's star, Johnny Depp.
Participants must visit a Volvo U.S. dealership to get a treasure map with a code that directs them to a Web site (volvocars.us/thehunt), which goes live June 12. They are not required to test-drive any models. Over the next four weeks, entrants must solve a series of clues to locate where the XC-90 is buried.
Volvo introduces the promotion next week on local gaming message boards and stand-alone blogs to create momentum before the campaign starts. Volvo will run online ads next week on sites such as YouTube.com, Movies.com, Google and Fandango.com "just to get the buzz going," Maloney said. Newspapers ads are also part of the media plan.
The first three U.S. players to solve all the clues will be flown to a secret location to join finalists from other countries. There, they will participate in physical challenges, which Maloney likened to reality show "The Amazing Race." Although only one winner gets the one-of-a-kind XC-90, the other finalists will also get prizes.
"It's hard to say how many players we'll have in this game," Maloney said. The main goal of the contest is to create awareness of Volvo's changed lined of models and drive traffic to showrooms.
Volvo's U.S. sales in 2006 totaled 48,255 through the end of May, down 10.2 percent from the same period last year.
The deal between Volvo and Disney sprang from Disney's sponsorship of a yacht in the year-long Volvo Ocean Race that will eventually cover 31,000-plus miles. Disney executives latched onto the sea-faring event because it closely reflects the movie's theme. There's an American skipper at the helm, along with a 10-person crew on the custom-created boat, aptly named the "Black Pearl," which flies a skull and crossbones flag from the film. The boat's official number, displayed prominently on a sail, is 7706, the date the movie launches.
The sailing event draws media attention and fans in key international territories, meant to build momentum for the movie in places such as Australia, Brazil, Spain and Sweden, said Donald Evans, vice president of marketing and promotions for Buena Vista Pictures International. "Those [countries] represent a large percentage of our international box office," Evans said. "These are places that will have a significant impact on our business."
Volvo's last major deal with a Hollywood studio was nine years ago, when it spent an estimated $10 million in advertising to co-market Paramount Pictures' big-screen adaptation of the TV series "The Saint." The alliance was part of the launch of its C70 coupe, which appeared in the film and tied in with the car the title character drove in the original TV show.
T.L. Stanley contributed to this report.
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