Volvo Puts Treasure Hunt Videos Online

Volvo’s month-long treasure hunt for a buried SUV has ended, and it is releasing the reality-style climax to the competition on its Web site this week.

“The Hunt” began in June as part of Volvo’s sponsorship of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest film. It featured TV, print and online elements, including a viral video released to YouTube showing the vehicle being buried in a secret location.

More than 52,000 participants in the U.S. and thousands more around the world followed a series of clues for four weeks, and seven finalists were flown to the Islands of the Bahamas in early August to compete, reality-show style, for a pirate-themed Volvo XC90.

In a manner similar to the CBS series “The Amazing Race,” the finalists competed in four rounds of mental and physical challenges on the islands, such as finding the local tourism office to mail a postcard home, escaping from the local jail, and snorkeling to find the next clue. The four finalists who completed all the tasks the fastest advanced to the next round.

Volvo released the first of four five-minute Web videos today, and will release the rest next week. They will be available to stream through a Flash-based player, or to download to view on a PC, iPod or PSP.

This is Volvo’s most significant online effort since it launched its S60 sedan online six years ago, according to Roger Ormisher, VP of public affairs at Volvo Cars North America. The company has dabbled at times with interactive, such as its “Boldly Go” promotion, but the “Pirates” effort introduced Volvo to the world of online word-of-mouth marketing, something that the company is hoping to tap into again, he said.

“The biggest lesson we learned came from getting into blogs. We got people to talk about Volvo online on several sites,” Ormisher told ClickZ. “We saw the highest uplift in brand awareness in North America in the last three years. Getting buyers to put us on their shopping list for the next time they buy a car is as important to us as a sale, in some ways.”

Besides the boost in brand awareness, Volvo drove more than 50,000 people into a Volvo dealership to pick up a treasure map, and saw more than 15,000 online users of the car configurator on The Hunt’s site. The company also e-mailed discount coupons to all game participants, and several of those have already been redeemed by new car buyers, Ormisher said.

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