Jeep Awes Consumers with Operation Altitude Stunt
Battling a bevy of SUV competitors, DaimlerChrysler wanted to introduce the full-size Jeep Commander in a way that would instantly establish the vehicle’s bona fides as one of the only trail-rated vehicles on the market, appeal to off-road enthusiasts and raise interest among more conservative urban consumers.
The automaker also figured it could use the launch to highlight its relationship with Operation Gratitude—a nonprofit that sends care packages to U.S. troops around the world—and do it all with the kind of fantastic spectacle that automotive writers have come to expect from Jeep media events.
The result: Operation Altitude. The m.o.: A team of skydivers and a fully functional Jeep Commander with four parachutes of its own were dropped from two Sikorsky helicopters circling 1,200 feet above the event site. Needless to say, testing the vehicle’s ability to withstand the drop in advance was key. “But we knew if it happened, we would get the kind of exposure Jeep wanted,” says Bill Abele, chief production officer at Birmingham, MI-based Clear!Blue.
When they landed, the skydivers piled into the vehicle and drove to a stage in front of the awed audience, proving the Commander was rugged enough to handle the flight (and roomy enough for seven). “It was a highly technical event, in true Jeep style,” says Carrie McElwee, Chrysler Group’s senior manager-marketing p.r. and communications. “It fit the heritage of our brand, with our military roots in this country—which is definitely something we look for. A program like this wouldn’t have fit with certain [rival] brands that don’t have the heritage we do.”
The founder of Operation Gratitude and a Chrysler executive greeted the divers and announced that nearly 2,800 Jeep dealerships would serve as donation “drop zones” for the cause’s holiday donation drive. The exposure helped Operation Gratitude achieve its goal of sending its 100,000th care package. And the stunt generated more than 46 million media impressions, including a prized placement on the Top Plays segment on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”