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What do Disney and ‘Star Wars’ have to do with selling electric Chevy Bolts? Not much

Chevy’s new ad goes for blatant brand halo of X-wings and princesses of the Magic Kingdom to pitch its new Bolt EVs.

What do Disney and ‘Star Wars’ have to do with selling electric Chevy Bolts? Not much
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The electric car is charging in the garage as a family packs it up for a road trip. Mom calls the little girl “Tink” as the little princess waves her wand to start the car.

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So begins a truly weird brand collaboration, as Chevy taps into the Disneyverse to help it pitch us on its new line of Bolt electric vehicles.

Part Bolt ad and part Disney World promo, all set to Bob Marley’s “Sun Is Shining,” the new campaign premiered during the season premiere of American Idol this past weekend and is as Big Advertising as you can possibly get. Chevrolet’s U.S. VP of marketing, Steve Majoros, told AdAge that the brand wanted to partner with Disney because it aims to create some of the same “magic moments” for which Disney and Walt Disney World are known. “Those magic moments are so engrained in people’s minds and memories,” said Majoros. “You think of owning a vehicle and the first time you drive or magic moments like seeing your kids sleep in the back. We’re very fortunate we both live in categories where people have this emotional resonance and connection.”

Not quite sure what any of that means, but what is clear is that Chevy didn’t want to take any chances in getting as much attention as possible for the new Bolts, so it looked to the most popular pop culture factory on the planet for some of that sweet, sweet halo effect.

And it’s milking every moment: Witness the 14-minute making-of feature about the commercial. More branded content!

This bolt is not out of the blue: It appears to adhere to the overall playbook that General Motors is following for its push into electric vehicles and its commitment to making 30 new EV models by 2025. GM is looking to tap reliable icons of pop culture to generate excitement around a new technology. For the Super Bowl, it was Will Ferrell trash-talking Norway.

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Now it’s the Millennium Falcon.

Advertising is actually pretty tough to get right, but it’s work like this that makes everyday people think of it as transparently easy. This isn’t lightsaber science. Take a lesser-known product and attach it to an insanely popular thing. This is the way.

Big bets like this are only worth it, however, if the brand can figure out how to capitalize on the initial boost of interest provided by that pop-culture halo. Tesla has become a cultural phenomenon by essentially becoming the Apple of cars through a combination of outsider cool, design-led product innovation, and a talismanic (albeit controversial) founder. Unlike Apple, Tesla has built this brand image with no official marketing and advertising.

Electric vehicles aren’t new, nor are they any longer the domain of a privileged few that can afford renewable energy as a luxury. Major brands such as Volvo, Volkswagen, and Harley-Davidson have all been hyping their electro-efforts over the past few years. But it’s the North American car giants that appear singularly sold on the idea that only some sort of pop tie-in can get people excited about this revolutionary technology. Last December, it was Ford that blasphemed a classic by enlisting the Griswolds for a holiday Mustang ad.

Although EVs are more present in our lives than they were a decade or so ago, they’re not quite at the commodity stage where this kind of brand partnership can do all the razzle-dazzle for you, the way they may be able to with Adidas sneakers or General Mills cereal. That’s because the Bolt just doesn’t have the brand equity or recognition that makes this kind of association worth it. We know why we care about Disney and Star Wars, but the Bolt?

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Collaborations like this work best when, as the Jedi like their Force, there is balance. Two brands of equal (or close) strength come together to make something special for fans. When the scale tips too heavily one way or the other, that unique element is lost, as is typically the lesser-known brand.

And in this ad, the car remains almost as forgotten as a certain conspicuously absent Disney dog.

WATCH: Chevy crams its ad with Disney while Cartoon Network releases anti-racist PSAs—brand hit and miss of the week

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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