Popular parody newsman Stephen Colbert may have been accused of being out to lunch, but with the backing of Audi of America, he will soon be out to sea. That’s because the company has signed on to sponsor Colbert’s sailing team in its entry in the 2011 Charleston Bermuda race.
The team will depart Charleston, S.C. in its 65-foot racing yacht on May 21 aiming to be the first to arrive in Bermuda, 777 miles later. It is Colbert’s second attempt in the race, which went badly for him the first time when bad weather snapped his boat’s mast and he finished dead last, days behind the other competitors.
Colbert sails as the team’s “Morale Officer,” and has also been named Honorary Captain of the Fleet for the event. Audi’s signature four-ring logo will adorn the boat’s spinnaker sail.
A stern-faced Johan de Nycchen, president of Audi of America, told Colbert at a New York International Auto Show press conference that the company expects better results this year than in Colbert’s previous attempt. “We’re proud to support winning teams in this arena and are expecting nothing less than greatness from Stephen and Team Audi,” he said, with mock seriousness. “Not to put too much pressure on them, but we’re looking forward to watching the team cross the finish line first this time around.”
Colbert lamented his inability to actually compete with an Audi. “I tried bolting a mast to an S5 and took her for a spin on the harbor, and the results were, well, moist,” he recalled.
But Audi is trying to get the rest of New Yorkers to consider a spin in the company’s new A7 luxury hatchback, er, five-door coupe. The company is using an “interactive billboard,” aka jumbotron, in Times Square to show a series of 20, one-minute commercials highlighting the A7.
The 15,000 square foot screen is at 46th and Broadway. In addition to touting the A7, the spots also highlight seven different locations around New York, and those locations are featured on a7bolddesign.com, YouTube.com/audiusa and Facebook.com/audi.
More than 1.2 million pedestrians pass by the interactive billboard each day. The campaign ends May 1, and there is no word on whether the company will rent the screen again to show Colbert’s victorious arrival in Bermuda live later in the month. But if not, maybe it will help sell some A7s in the meantime to help pay for the boat.
DAN CARNEY is a veteran auto industry observer who has written for MSNBC.com, Motor Trend, AutoWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Better Homes and Gardens and other publications. He has authored two books, "Dodge Viper" and "Honda S2000" and is a juror for the North American Car of the Year award. Carney covers the industry from the increasingly strategic location of Washington, DC.