Subaru of America has been setting up shop at 12 Recreational Equipment Inc. stores across the U.S. in a co-branding campaign emphasizing the automaker's outdoorsy identity.
Subaru places vehicles in front of the stores of the retailer, known for outdoor adventure gear, hiking boots, kayaks and mountain bikes. If those sound like items off the page of a Subaru ad, that's the point.
"REI sells stuff to create experiences. Subaru vehicles create experiences," said Alan Bethke, Subaru of America's senior vice president of marketing, in an interview. "Our owners love to engage and collect experiences."
Subaru arranged 12 REI weekend "road trips," starting in late July and wrapping up in November, ranging from Florida to Montana.
Each event features a heavily accessorized Ascent as the main attraction and, depending on the size of the store, showcases a Crosstrek and an Outback.
As at auto shows, REI customers can walk through the Subaru setup and learn more about the vehicles. They also can sign up to win an Ascent and receive free outdoor accessories.
The REI campaign lets Subaru connect with its customers and identify potential new ones, Bethke said.
"It helps us reach REI shoppers who might not have been exposed to Subaru before. But they are the kind of folks who really should be Subaru owners," he said.
Each three-day store visit has been drawing between 1,000 and 3,000 people, said Matt Barber, a Subaru brand partnership and experiential marketing specialist.
Barber said Subaru has been able to get sales leads and track the number of sales to people who stopped by one of the events and later bought a vehicle from a Subaru dealership.