But by far and away one of the best in recent times was BMW’s decision to support Jedi Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman on their trip around the world.
The pair rode the ‘Long Way Round’ the globe on BMW R1150 GS Adventure bikes as part of a hugely successful Sky One documentary. Their trip captured the imagination of millions and resulted in sales of BMW’s GS rocketing.
Today, I’ve been writing an article about the most successful product placements in the automotive world and was lucky enough to chat to the man that said yes to the Long Way Round team – Tony Jakeman, BMW Motorrad’s marketing manager.
He told me far more than I needed for the 75 word article I was planning so thought I’d share his tale here instead.
‘I’d say it’s by far and away the most successful product placement BMW has ever done,’ said Tony.
‘And the best bit was it sort of fell into our laps. We didn’t go hunting for it (originally the pair wanted KTMs but they pulled out at the last minute) – they came to us and for the relatively small sponsorship we got a huge return.’
BMW was asked to supply three bikes, support, logistical help and technical assistance when needed – and in return got huge exposure for their bikes.
And the real success was the show demonstrated how reliable the BMWs were in the face of extreme adversity as the team rode around the globe.
The bikes shook off countless tumbles, dirt, dust and water crossings to make the incredible journey, making a soggy commute into London look like child’s play in comparison.
‘For the figure we put in that was incredible. It wasn’t really a gamble for us either – we knew our bikes could take it so agreeing was easy.
‘It was me that said yes to the team and you’re right I certainly basked in the glory of it for some time! When the team came back to us and said they wanted to do it again with the Long Way Down the price of the sponsorship had rocketed somewhat.
‘But it showed how successful product placement can be – sales rose hugely off the back of it. I can’t put a figure on how many extra bikes were sold – even though the producers would love me to – but I can say it was considerable.’
Well, there was at least one, Tony – I am quite happy to admit the only reason I bought my BMW GS Adventure was because of the show, and five years later I still love it!