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Four rings for William and Harry

2011-04-20 08:03

NICE S5: Prince William and his brother Harry discussing helicopters (probably) next to a Polo field. The Range Rover in frame is not a royal car, the Audi is…

It all started with the most loved royal of all – the late Princess of Wales, Lady Diana.

During the early 1990s, as her marriage to Prince Charles was unravelling, Diana conferred a substantial level of prestige to (then) emerging German premium brand Audi, by driving an 80-series Cabriolet.

Today, her sons (and even Charles himself) drive Audis and so do many of the peripheral royals and their support staff. How did that happen?

One would expect the royal family to drive the best of British – which has traditionally meant bespoke Daimlers, XJs and Range Rovers. Not anymore though.

House of Windsor, or Ingolstadt?

Prince William, when not piloting his search and rescue specification Sea King HAR3 helicopter, drives a grey S5.

His brother Harry, recently promoted to Captain in the British Army Air Corps, drives an A3 diesel.

The reason? Well, it is not the lack of an entry-level Jaguar or another suitable thoroughbred British automotive product being unavailable. The House of Windsor becoming the garage of Ingolstadt is simply the result of outstandingly clever marketing by Audi.

The British royal family - especially the young Princess - are exceptionally brand ambassadors and any product placement with regards to them is sure to generate outstanding brand awareness. To this end Audi allows the Royal Family a special House of Windsor discount, leasing them cars with at a 60% discount.

Why don’t Audi just give away cars for free to the royal family instead? Well, there is the issue of freebies bordering on plain corruption and the tainting the royal image. A heavily discounted lease agreement still has the veneer of an official transaction, intimating that British royals actually choose Audi products above others in the marketplace.

Whatever the reasons, with the Princess each having a set of four-ring badges keys, Kate Middleton driving an A3 and Prince Charles having a fleet of A8s and A6 All-Road models on lease, the House of Windsor does not believe in the best of British when it comes to motoring anymore.

Beyond its deal with the House of Windsor, Audi’s product placement acumen is renowned. The company allowed director John Frankenheimer use of its first generation S8 for the car chase scenes in his 1998 action thriller Ronin, establishing the S8’s image as the ultimate limousine comfort getaway car.

Another expertly judged example of cinematic product placement by Audi has been with the Iron Man movies, where the company’s R8 supercar (and a gaggle of other Audis) received ample screen-time.


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