But Pirates Don’t Drive SUVs, Do They?

You might be wondering why Volvo didn’t cross-promote with Disney’s other summer blockbuster, Cars, instead of an adventure set several centuries before the Swedish carmaker designed its first chassis.

But to Volvo and Disney, it all makes sense. Asked what an SUV has to do with a swashbuckling period adventure, Linda Gangeri, Volvo’s national advertising manager, said: “What can one be assured of in every pirate movie? Buried treasure. And the XC90—which is a family vehicle—that’s our most valued treasure.”

Sound like a stretch? Get used to it. Increasingly, advertisers are jumping aboard to flank consumers where they’re being entertained—if the demographic matches and resonance can be found with the brand image.

Cherise McVicar, Disney’s senior vice president of national promotions, says that the issue isn’t whether cars were around in the days of Jack Sparrow. “On the surface, it might not seem like there’s a thematic connection,” McVicar said, “but with a little bit of creative ingenuity, you can almost always come up with something that breaks through the clutter.”

The most “disconnected campaign” McVicar recalls involved Procter & Gamble laundry detergents and The Incredibles. Consumers who bought three selected products during the month of March 2005 received a free Incredibles blanket. “We realized that moms, be they live-action moms or real live moms, have a lot in common,” she said. “A good brand or creative fit can often work just as well as a thematic connection.”

Beyond the safety-minded carmaker, the film, starring Johnny Depp, also ties in with McDonald’s, Kodak, Kellogg’s and Coca-Cola, among more than a dozen other family-friendly marketers whose wares were unknown to buccaneers.

And Volvo is not just teaming with Disney on the film–it’s also partnering with another co-sponsor, McDonalds, to give away 28 Volvos in 28 days to customers of the fastfood chain.