Acura wasn't originally a part of "God's Plan."
The hit song from rap star Drake spawned a heart-tugging video in February that followed the artist during an outpouring of giving. Drake's charitable binge included cash giveaways, free groceries, shopping sprees and, in a jolt of publicity for Acura: the gifting of two new 2018 TLXs.
The video's production manager said the early plans called for a more downmarket stablemate, the Honda Civic. But Drake's team scrapped that idea and went with Acura, a sentimental pick for the rapper, whose first car was a 2004 TSX. The rapper occasionally muses about his "Acura days" in his lyrics.
The video, which quickly became a viral sensation and birthed an army of comical Internet memes, has drawn more than 560 million views.
While Acura's appearance looked like a case of sublime product placement that struck gold, it wasn't part of some grand marketing scheme. The huge dose of exposure just fell into Acura's lap.
It all started with a call to Esserman Acura in Doral, Fla., near downtown Miami, in which Liz Gonzalez, the production manager, inquired about buying three ILX sedans.
The dealership was skeptical at first. The Internet manager who had made first contact with Gonzalez passed her on to the general manager, Francisco Diez-Rivas, who didn't even know who Drake was.
"I contacted the regional manager and, lo and behold, he's a Drake fan. He starts telling me his songs, that he's great," Diez-Rivas said.
That fan was Jason Bracken, Acura's zone sales manager. He spoke with Gonzalez and confirmed that her inquiry was legit. Gonzalez also had to make the pitch to Acura brass in California to explain the video's premise.
The brand loved the idea of giving back to the community and agreed to be a part of the video within 48 hours.
Acura even upped the ante, making a deal to get the TLX sedans in the video instead of the ILX.
Three sedans were slated to be given away, but the production team later decided to go with two TLXs and a Ford Transit van.
It was a whirlwind process. Gonzalez reached out to the Esserman store on a Tuesday, and the vehicles were needed by Friday.
She pulled it off.
One of the TLX recipients was a Haitian refugee who survived a 2010 earthquake on the island when he was a boy. He now attends high school in Miami. The other recipient, Gonzalez said, was a high school football player in the Miami area whose family "had been down on their luck."
At one point, Gonzalez said, the production team considered buying a house to give away, but plans changed.
Acura General Manager Jon Ikeda said it was an easy choice to participate in the video.
"I'm sitting there next to the marketing guys [who asked], 'This is going down, are you OK with it?,'" Ikeda told Automotive News. "And I said 'Of course I'm OK with it. Hurry up and give them the car!'
"We didn't know how big [the video] was going to go," he said. "We had no idea. What we loved about it was that it was organic."