Land Rover eyes wider appeal, signs Sharapova

NEW YORK: Land Rover has announced a three-year partnership with female tennis star Maria Sharapova.

NEW YORK: Land Rover has announced a three-year partnership with female tennis star Maria Sharapova.

 The 2004 Wimbledon champion will serve as an ambassador for the Land Rover brand, by using Land Rover vehicles and participating in retail promotions and events.

Tim Watson, VP of communications and public affairs for Land Rover, told PRWeek at the New York International Auto Show that Sharapova will help Land Rover execute its 360-degree practice of brand communications, which involves communicating to customers, dealers, media, and prospects.

"Instead of doing a typical PR event, we can work with her on events that will touch a wider audience," Watson said. "We can run events that will attract the media, dealers, customers, and even other celebrities who like attending celebrity events."

Details of the partnership, which is for the US, UK, and Russia, are still being hammered out, but Watson said it will involve print ads and public events featuring the popular tennis star.

The agreement marks the second time in less than two years that Land Rover has entered a partnership with an athlete. Last year, the company signed a deal with golfer Greg Norman. Watson said athletes tend to be a good fit for the brand because of its adventurous nature.

The Sharapova deal came to fruition when Mike O'Driscoll, president of the Premier Automotive Group, a division of Ford that comprises Volvo, Aston Martin, Jaguar, and Land Rover, met with Sharapova and her manager for dinner. She expressed her own affinity for the brand at the time.

In discussing the choice of Sharapova, Watson stressed that celebrities who work with Land Rover "must have a passion for their vehicles."

Watson, who pointed out that the median age of a Land Rover customer is around 45, added that Sharapova would be integral in the brand's attempts to target both younger urban buyers of vehicles like the Range Rover Sport and more traditional ones.

Land Rover sales in North America are up 34% year-to-date. The US is now Land Rover's biggest market.

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