MSN, Volvo in Marketing, E-Commerce Deal

MSN said Monday it has struck a marketing and e-commerce deal with the Volvo division at Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) that will include the pre-sale of a number of 2003 model-year vehicles on the portal.

The deal includes a 15-month-long promotion campaign that will culminate with the launch of Volvo’s first sports utility vehicle, the XC90. That vehicle will be pre-sold through MSN before it becomes widely available next November.

Specific financials of the deal were not disclosed, but MSN described the promotion as a “multimillion-dollar digital-marketing campaign.”

Multifaceted Deal

The promotion includes a co-branded version of Microsoft’s Explorer browser featuring Volvo-related graphics and links, free limited-time MSN service offers and an MSN-hosted site known as the Volvo Digital Garage, where Volvo will post the first photos of its new SUV.

MSN’s Carpoint online car sales site will also be involved in the agreement. Through the site, shoppers will be able to directly contact local Volvo dealers for information or to make a purchase and view an online catalog of all Volvo models.

“This alliance with Volvo shows yet again that MSN Advantage Marketing continues to attract the world’s leading brands,” said Rich Bray, vice president of MSN.

Upping the Ante

In striking the agreement with Volvo, MSN, which is owned and operated by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), is following the lead of rival portal Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO).

Yahoo! has launched similar promotional campaigns with Sony and others and promised during a recent analysts meeting to unveil more major deals in coming months.

The agreement also extends the battle between MSN and Yahoo!, which have been crossing sabers for some time over which portal has the most traffic, with each company citing statistics showing it draws more visitors than the other.

America Online (NYSE: AOL) has likewise been eager to leverage its online media property as a forum for marketing programs, inking deals with Phillips Electronics and others.

Deeper Relationship

Phil Bienert, manager of CRM and e-business for Volvo, said the carmaker hopes to use the Web to deepen its connection with customers. Volvo information, such as updates on product releases, will also be sent to customers who sign up to receive alerts through their personal digital assistants (PDAs).

“The customized campaign we developed with MSN uniquely connects Volvo with potential and existing customers by providing them with useful and engaging information on multiple devices,” Bienert said.

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