BMW to Air Super Bowl Ad for i3 Electric Car

Courtesy of BMW
BMW i3

The 60-second spot for the electric car will run alongside ads for rivals Mercedes-Benz and Lexus during the game.

After a four-year hiatus, BMW will return to the Super Bowl with a 60-second spot for its i3 electric car during the first quarter of the game Feb. 1. 

BMW has revealed few details about the ad, other than it was created in partnership with New York's KBS agency and that it would attempt to educate consumers.

"Big ideas like the BMW i3 take a little getting used to, and the creative idea surrounding our spot will play on this analogy," Trudy Hardy, BMW of North America's marketing vp, said in a statement.

Carmakers traditionally use the Super Bowl to launch new cars — Jaguar debuted its F-Type Coupe with an elaborate "Villains" ad starring Ben KingsleyTom Hiddleston and Mark Strong and helmed by Tom Hooper, director of The King's Speech, during last year's game. But several car companies are sitting out this year's Super Bowl — only six will advertise compared to 11 in 2014 — partly due to rates running an estimated $4.5 million per 30-second spot.

The fact that BMW could pay NBC close to $9 million to advertise the i3 during the game is causal evidence that the German maker of Ultimate Driving Machines is serious about selling electric cars.

In 2007 — when Tesla was still a struggling startup — BMW went all in on a radical rethinking of how its cars of the future would look and drive. Convinced that European and, later, American emissions restrictions would grow ever tighter, BMW invested billions in R&D and launched an entirely new "i" division devoted to alternative-fuel cars built from materials derived from aviation and assembled in eco-friendly factories.

BMW announced at the Detroit Auto Show last week that the i division's first two cars — the $43,000 i3 and the $135,000 i8 plug-in hybrid supercar — had exceeded sales projections, selling 18,000 cars worldwide, about a third of those in the U.S., where the cars didn't go on sale until the second half of the year. Production of the i3, which began at 10 vehicles per day at BMW's plant in Leipzig, Germany, is now at 100 cars per day and expected to increase, the company said.

To put those numbers in perspective, last year Tesla sold an estimated 32,000 examples of its Model S electric car while BMW sold more than 2 million vehicles overall.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter at the auto show, Ludwig Willisch, BMW's North American CEO, said the the i3 was doing well in pockets of the U.S. — particularly in Los Angeles and the Bay Area — but that "it's obviously not the United States as a whole that's interested in electro-mobility. But where there is a market we do sell."

Willisch added that the BMW was committed to the i division cars "because the world is changing and we need to address these changes. We just wanted to be a the forefront to tell people BMW was not only, so to say, pedal to the metal — it is also a very responsible car company that has answers for people who are looking at things differently."