LOS ANGELES -- Mini spent more than half of its record marketing budget last year on TV to build awareness, says its top U.S. executive.
It's part of the new strategy to portray Mini as a more "mature brand" and attract new buyers, said David Duncan, vice president of Mini of the Americas, in an interview at the launch of the convertible here.
Mini is trying to expand its appeal -- hence the "Defy Labels" Super Bowl spot that featured a variety of stars including tennis pro Serena Williams and actor Harvey Keitel.
The "Defy Labels" theme will continue with TV spots for the next three months and then Mini will advertise the next-generation, larger Clubman wagon, Duncan said.
"When you are needing to build awareness as a brand, one of the best platforms is television," he said.
Mini would not disclose its marketing budget but according to Kantar Media, the brand spent $32 million in 2014 and $34 million through September of last year. Kantar said figures for all of 2015 are not yet available.
Mini will pull back from last year's TV spend and pour more money into digital marketing -- not social media, but customer relationship marketing, Duncan said. The customer relationship marketing will "drive more traffic to the Tier 3 websites and directly to the dealers," Duncan said.
Mini has been in the United States since 2002 but potential buyers "do not realize we also have a four-door and all-wheel drive or a convertible," Duncan said. "We need people to understand we are out there and start putting us on their shopping list."
To raise awareness, Mini used celebrities. It advertised its Countryman crossover with Tony Hawk, the skateboard champion, and his four sons. "We demonstrated it was a car that could be used as a serious car for family purposes," Duncan said.
"You would not have thought a man with his four sons would fit into a Mini. That starts to tell a little bit of that breadth story -- that we are not just a two-door car."
Other TV commercials featured every car in the lineup for the first time, a strategy that will again be used in 2016, Duncan said.
"This concept to Defy Labels is what Mini has always been. We did not abandon anything."
"In the past, people would have never expected Mini to have so much interior space, and no one would have expected it to be a performance car and do well on the racetrack," he said.
Mini skipped this year's Detroit auto show but will debut the John Cooper Works version of the redesigned 2016 Mini convertible at the New York auto show. The redesigned convertible goes on sale in March. The higher performance model goes on sale in April.
Mini sold 58,514 cars in 2015 in the U.S., up 4.3 percent from 2014, and could have sold more if gasoline prices hadn't fallen, said Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW AG board member for Mini.
"What happens if gas prices go up to $3 or $4 [a gallon]? Mini will explode."