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Saturday 24 February 2018

Marital accord? Brian and Amy line up for different carmakers

STARS AND CARS: Amy Huberman, is the new brand ambassador for the Range Rover
STARS AND CARS: Amy Huberman, is the new brand ambassador for the Range Rover Evoque
Brian O'Driscoll loves his Lexus RX Hybrid


Irish rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll and his actress wife Amy Huberman are now playing for different teams.

The golden couple are brand ambassadors for two competing luxury carmakers who supply them with top of the range cars and free insurance and running costs.

It means there will have to be a little marital diplomacy when they tootle off to the garden centre after Sunday lunch to pick up their autumn bedding.

Brian, currently in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup, will surely want to drive his Lexus RX Hybrid that sells for up to €70,000, while Amy will want to try out her new Range Rover Evoque.

Last week, she picked up the keys of her new car, which has a base price of just over €44,000, rising to €66,000 for a top of the range model with all the bells and whistles.

"I'm absolutely thrilled with my new Range Rover Evoque. I'm looking forward to taking it for its first spin!" said Amy at the announcement photocall last week.

And they are not the only celebrities and sports stars enjoying free motoring and insurance from carmakers anxious to add glamour to their marques.

Mitsubishi Motors Ireland is sponsoring Irish athletics star and Olympic hopeful Derval O'Rourke who took delivery of a new Mitsubishi ASX Crossover before she went to Deagu for the World Athletics Championships where she had to pull out of the semi-final yesterday with a calf strain.

"The Mitsubishi ASX is perfect for me. It's stylish, flexible, economical and there's plenty of room for my two most important travel companions -- my training gear and Berlino, my dog," Derval gushed.

And Volkswagen Ireland has become official motor partner of the IRFU, making it the title motor partner for the Irish rugby team until 2016.

Under the new partnership, Volkswagen will also support the IRFU tag rugby programme while the car brand is already a partner of Leinster rugby.

This month the company will host a series of breakfast roadshows with Volkswagen retailers immediately prior to Ireland's games in Rugby World Cup 2011. The breakfast roadshows will also include a competition giving Volkswagen customers the chance to bring five friends to an upcoming match involving one of Volkswagen's brand ambassadors.

Eoin Murray, one of Ireland's best-known motoring personalities, has strengthened his ties with SEAT, renewing his role as brand ambassador for 2011 by receiving the keys to his brand new SEAT Leon Cupra R.

Another SEAT brand ambassador is top model and Miss Universe contestant Nadia Forde who drives a SEAT Leon while last year Kathryn Thomas was seen driving a powder blue Audi A5.

But the motor industry is divided over the value and continued wisdom and cost of the "brand ambassador" programmes, which meant that until two years ago the car park at Montrose, and indeed many of the independent radio stations, were chock-a-block with free cars.

Two years ago luxury marque BMW called a halt to its programme which had featured Pat Kenny (BMW 750d), Grainne Seoige (320 convertible), Diarmuid Gavin (X5) as well as Irish rugby international Gordon D'Arcy (325 Coupe). They had to hand back their cars or else buy them from the German manufacturer.

Ms Seoige, who before BMW had a link up with Audi, is now driving a pretty Alfa Romeo Guilletta, part of an informal arrangement with the Fiat group though she is now one of the few celebrities linked to the Italian automotive giant which is now pulling back from its brand ambassador programme here. Her sister Sile Seoige is driving a new Peugeot RCZ sports coupe as an ambassador for the French car company.

Fiat spokesman Conor Twomey said: "At one time we were very active in this area but we have found it to be of limited value overall. It can be very good. It entirely depends on the arrangement you make with the person.

"You are never tied in with iron-clad contracts so it is up to the people involved to make themselves available and, of course, to treat the cars respectfully. When you weigh up the cost of capitalising the car, maintaining the car and running the car you find that the overall benefit is simply not worth it now.

"Grainne Seoige is driving the Alfa Romeo Guilietta but she is not a brand ambassador, rather a friend of the brand, and two members of The Script drive Alfa Romeo Mitos. We do have some formal deals with radio stations. We are happy with that. Grainne is lovely to deal with but, of course, her contract with RTE precludes her from being the face of Alfa Romeo or being a brand ambassador."

Mr Twomey suggested that the overall cost of brand ambassadors was now becoming prohibitive and taking money from budgets which might be better spent elsewhere on advertising.

"It is big money, it is very expensive. The whole cost of the car comes out of your marketing budget which you will then recoup when you eventually get it back and sell it. For a top-of-the-range car between depreciation and running costs it takes about €10,000 to €15,000 a year," he said.

"We don't have an active paparazzi culture in this country so you don't often see photographs in the papers of people arriving in their cars. For red carpet events they are mostly chauffered in anyway so you don't get the visibility you might in, say, the UK," he said.

Amy Huberman also used to drive Fiat cars. At one stage the Fiat group had about 30 sponsored cars on the road, including one driven by top model Georgia Salpia who formerly drove a Fiat 500 convertible.

"It just represents bad value for money unless the fit between the company and the personality involved is a good fit. We are reviewing everything at the end of the year," said Mr Twomey.

Sunday Independent

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