MINI E Sponsorship Wrap a No Go

We can forget about the concept of defraying the cost of driving an electric MINI E through sponsorship. At least for now. It appears that wrapping a leased MINI with (tasteful) graphics may run astray of the lease terms. Looking for ways to make the $850 per month lease payment more affordable for the less-than-well-heeled, I posed the question to MINI Product Manager, Vincent Tennessee Kung.

“Modifying a MINI, like any vehicle leased by MINI Financial Services, may violate the terms and conditions of the contract regarding modifications done to the vehicle as it may also affect as the new vehicle warranty. Therefore, we do not recommend or endorse a wrap,” replied Vincent. “This is an engineering field trial more than anything else and with the flying doctors who will be checking in on the cars, such activity will be noticed.”

Ah well, the best laid plans, and all that …

With the raft of web efforts to brand everything with a logo for a fee (no, I won’t wear your t-shirt), I figured that selling MINI E sponsorships would be a slam dunk … especially with the fleet of electric MINI Es scooting around the media hubs of NYC and LA, our country awash in a sea of relatively cheap petroleum, and electric vehicles facing a startlingly huge perception deficit.

It’s crucial that we tilt expectations in these difficult times through the use of social proof. Hundreds of people might see a single MINI E in the course of a day, but if the vehicle’s not clearly branded, how will they ever know it’s an electric car?

They won’t. And that’s the problem.

Forward-thinking working folks who would love to participate, but are prevented from doing so because of the costs see the MINI E as a frivolity for the wealthy few. A MINI E sponsored wrap program would accomplish a number of win/win goals:

  • fill seats with happy raving evangelists that drive to work every day
  • widen the marketing impact on the street in key markets
  • spawn an ever-flowing stream of success stories

I suggested that there could be any number of ways to do this from a business perspective. I stated that one could easily make the case for a web-based auction system, similar to Google AdWords or perhaps via eBay. Unfortunately, I missed the mark in selling the cause.

MINI wasn’t in an idea buying mood and I clearly hadn’t spent enough time listening to those Zig Ziegler tapes during my ever-so-brief stint in sales, so long ago.

MINI Marketing Manager Trudy Hardy summed up the company’s position. “We are extremely sensitive to the fact that this is a learning phase over the next 12 months from both an engineering perspective and understanding the price/value relationship in the marketplace,” Trudy explained. “It is important for us to understand both of these factors during our pilot program in order to develop sustainability plans for the future.”

So now I’m wondering … do I pitch them on the Celebrity MINI E Racing Series concept? Or should I keep working the i-MiEV angle with Mitsubishi?