'Year of the Cat' [China Daily: Hong Kong Edition]
(China Daily: Hong Kong Edition Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Teaming with David Beckham, Jaguar roars into the future
Sprinting ahead into its 10th year in China, British luxury brand Jaguar is set to score some spectacular goals with help from David Beckham, its first-ever celebrity ambassador for the country.
On March 7, Jaguar officially announced that the former England captain and active businessman David Beckham has begun his role as its ambassador for China. One of the brand's biggest moves in the year, it will be followed by a series of marketing events, all showing that the iconic British brand is on the move to make it the "Year of the Cat", said the carmaker.
Under a two-year partnership between two British legends both known for their elegance, daring and innovative characters - as well as "never stop achieving" spirit - Beckham will front a China-exclusive Jaguar campaign produced by renowned fashion photographer and filmmaker Peter Lindbergh.
In April, Beckham will visit China to share his "never stop achieving" stories with Jaguar fans.
"We are absolutely thrilled that David will be an ambassador for Jaguar in China. He is someone who embodies contemporary British style and sophistication - a great achiever in many areas and an individual with a genuine passion for design, innovation, performance and continuous achievements," said Bob Grace, president of Jaguar Land Rover China.
Keeping legends alive
He added that the campaign "may hit home even for many non-football fans as what makes Beckham a household name is not just his wondrous free-kicks but also his inspirational stories of continuing to strive - no matter on the field as a professional athlete, on the red carpet as a fashion icon, or back to the field after retirement as a club investor, he is always a positive and progressive role model".
Che Yanhua, executive vice president of Jaguar China, said the global celebrity "never rests on his laurels but always fearlessly explores different possibilities".
"That is why we can say that he represents Jaguar better than anytime before."
Company executives said Beckham's enterprising spirit is the exact message the brand tries to get across in China, where it is growing from a minority player in the premium car segment to a force to be reckoned with and actively approaching young potential customers that want to live a life as animated as the leaping figure on a Jaguar car.
Beckham, a Jaguar car owner himself, feels the same way towards the brand. Vitality is what distinguishes Jaguar from others, he once said.
"How alive are you?" is a question Jaguar poses to consumers and challenges itself to answer. Throughout its 79-year history, Jaguar has always been creating cars as art, with the same high dedication to details. It has never stopped reinventing its work.
Perfections all have a warranty period. Once asked how to improve a great perfection like the E-Type, Ian Callum, design director of Jaguar, said a simple way to get better is to start over. "One should not be afraid of getting a clean slate and trying out all possibilities," he said.
Out of this constant pursuit of excellence, the F-TYPE was born later. The model, as the most dynamically capable, performance-focused, production car Jaguar has ever made, will demonstrate the spirit that Jaguar and David Beckham have in common.
"I've always been an admirer of Jaguar - from the styling and design to the feel and roar of the engine, every element feels uniquely British. I love the classic E-Type of the 1960s and today this legacy is alive in the phenomenal F-TYPE, a car that epitomizes British craftsmanship. It's an honor to support a brand with such an amazing heritage and I look forward to being part of Jaguar's exciting future in China," said Beckham.
Winning hearts, sales
Owning 29 cars but only representing one car brand - Jaguar - Beckham said what appeals to him the most about the brand is that visceral connection.
According to a report released by consulting firm McKinsey & Co last year, emotional factors such as "premium personality" or "brand DNA" are increasingly important in premium car buying in China. Expensive cars are becoming a way of life that buyers want to share with their families, friends and business partners. When customers are looking forward to a cozy and intimate relationship with a brand, acting aloof no longer makes a luxury brand more attractive.
"If you want to build a brand you have got to bring it to customers. If the brand is up in the sky, people cannot identify themselves with it," said Che.
As a relative latecomer in China's premium car market, getting closer to consumers is vital for Jaguar to change the long-standing preconception that the brand is beyond the reach of ordinary buyers. In fact, Jaguar has a variety of models across a wide price range and it continues to enrich its product portfolio.
The F-TYPE marks its comeback to the sports car arena, while the C-X17 concept car built on an all-new technically advanced aluminum architecture, represents its venture into new fields.
The XE, mid-sized premium sports sedan, just has name confirmed at the recent Geneva Auto Show, demonstrates the brand's cat-like agility as it quickly adapted its product planning to increasing market demand for entry-level luxuries following the rise of young consumers. This will be the first product from the new advanced aluminium architecture which was showcased for the first time in the C-X17 concept car at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2013.
All the moves indicate that Jaguar is no longer a niche brand and it offers multiple choices for customers, the carmaker said.
All the efforts have brought good results. Jaguar achieved 140 percent sales growth to deliver 17,876 units in China last year. And many of China's elite have become Jaguar fans.
"Never stop achieving" Jaguar celebrities include renowned writer Han Han and singer Jimmy Lin Chih-ying who were both big magnets for the Jaguar Driving Challenge last year that attracted 3,000 participants in 15 Chinese cities.
During a five-month Jaguar heritage tour across 10 cities in China, director Lu Chuan and ballet dancer Hou Honglan shared their insights of honoring traditions and following trends in the art world.
The gathering of Jaguar's classic C-Type, D-Type E-Type cars as well as brand-new F-TYPE, XF and XJ models created a rare spectacle of historical richness.
"We are not only selling top-class products but also introducing the excellence and elegance of British auto culture to Chinese customers," said Che.
Through an active over-the-line presence in China, Jaguar has succeeded in raising awareness about the brand's unique rendering of British heritage and modernity.
After producing a viral micro-movie featuring the F-TYPE and XF in an rendering of "British Cool", Jaguar recently established a strategic partnership with China's online entertainment giant Tencent.
Getting closer to consumers is about initiating more interaction. Last week, Jaguar Land Rover kicked off its largest-ever customer research campaign that will be continued throughout April.
More than 700 people gathered from across China participated in the event, reviewing current and future Jaguar Land Rover products.
The diverse, changing demands from customers will continue to drive Jaguar forward and "never stop achieving".
Jaguar announced David Beckham as brand ambassador for China on March 7.
Above: (From left) Renowned musician Zhang Yadong, film director Lu Chuan, Handel Lee, lawyer and creator of cultural and lifestyle projects, and Che Yanhua, executive vice-president of Jaguar China, share their insights on art and life with TV hostess Chen Luyu. Below: One of the art cars under the theme of sportiness to express the "ALIVE" spirit.
(China Daily 03/10/2014 page19)
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