Mazda Drive For Good Gives Back During the Holidays

Mazda Drive For Good
The Mazda Drive for Good program generates donations and volunteer hours when people take test drives or buy a car

Mazda will donate money and volunteer hours to some great charities this holiday season; here’s how you can help 

“Our research showed that customers didn’t trust us,” said Russell Wager, head of marketing at Mazda when asked about the car maker’s Drive For Good program. And even though many of Mazda’s dealers were involved in charitable programs in their communities, consumers weren’t aware, so they didn’t give the company credit for their good deeds.

Add to that the fact that many consumers saw Mazda’s products in segmented ways, such as sporty sedans for young drivers or SUVs for families, but not necessarily both. What Mazda saw was an opportunity to change perceptions, so they created two efforts: Drive for Good to assist local and national charities, and Driving Matters, an ad campaign to tell the stories through the Mazda family of cars.

Two great ideas, and a charity effort to connect them

Mazda Drive For Good

The Mazda Drive for Good charity beneficiaries

Tying the two ideas together was a challenge at the start, four years ago when Drive For Good was launched. “When we talked to dealers they liked the idea, but they wanted to sell cars, too,” Russell said.

Getting dealers to support the program was key, and also, a bit of a challenge. Typically at the end of the year dealers are focused on moving cars off the lot, and manufacturer specials entice buyers to buy. But Russell and his team knew that without building up consumer trust, special deals would have a limited impact no matter how good they were (or the car, for that matter; Mazda is known for its reliability). “We said, we have to tell people why they should want to be part of the Mazda family, help them to understand more about Mazda, show that we are part of the community,” Russell told us.

And so, Drive For Good was born.

“For every car bought between Thanksgiving and New Years we’ll make a $150 donation to a charity,” Russell explained. And for every test drive, Mazda donates an hour of volunteer time. But if you’re in the market for a good deal on a Mazda, don’t worry; Drive For Good supplements other deal and finance programs, offering customers a chance to feel good AND save money.

Announcing a grand prize winner at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting

Mazda Drive For Good

Mazda Drive for Good grand prize winner Stefanie Grimm, founder of the Confetti Foundation with The Today Show’s Al Roker

To highlight the program, Mazda sponsored NBCUniversal’s Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, during which the company announced a Drive For Good grand prize winner, chosen from charities that were nominated over prior months; Mazda reviewed the nominations and picked one to receive a $30,000 donation. This year the winner is Stephanie Grimm, founder of The Confetti Foundation, a children’s charity that delivers birthday parties to children who are hospitalized on their birthday. So far this year Confetti Foundation has delivered more than 8,000 “Birthday in a Box” kits to kids all over the country.

But after seeing the response to the grand prize winner–and being touched by so many great nominations– Mazda decided to take the power of the donation a step further, awarding an additional 4 winners $10,000 each: A Little Help, which helps elderly people stay in their homes longer by matching them with local volunteers, Autism Academy of South Carolina, which offers therapy and resources to children on the Autism spectrum, Helping Hands Orange County, which provides emergency support for people in need, and Restoration Automotive, Inc., which helps people in need in the central Ohio area with car repairs.

To share the news of Drive For Good’s 2015 winner, Stephanie Grimm and the Confetti Foundation, ambassador Minnie Driver, helped to tell the story in this video:

Yes, just take a test drive and Mazda will donate to a local charity

Even though the grand prizes were awarded, the effort continues throughout the holiday season. “Customers don’t have to buy a car, just take a test drive” to help their local charities, Russell told us; of course, a purchase makes an even greater donation.

The program has been very successful. “The first year we donated $3 million to charity and 50,000 hours” of volunteer time. Dealers who might have been skeptical now “are behind it and push,” Russell told us. “No dealer has opted out.”

Mazda Drive For Good

A counter on Mazda’s site keeps track or the donations and volunteer hours generated

Drive For Good is a nice complement to Mazda’s Driving Matters advertising campaign, designed to also connect drivers and buyers with the idea that Mazda’s models aren’t just for young drivers, but that Mazda has cars for every stage of your life. This heart string-pulling add kicked off the campaign, which started last spring:

Family is the star of Mazda’s ads

And future ads tell similar stories: a couple getting engaged and a couple bringing their baby home from the hospital, connecting the idea of family to the family of Mazda cars. The appeal is designed to attract more women, Russell told us. “Driving for women is about the technology, the safety, the confidence” behind the wheel.

“There are a lot of women who love to drive— not zero to 60, but on a winding road with beautiful scenery; the car feels great,” Russell says, so the experience is great. “Our research says that our appeal is about a 60/40 men and women,” but Russell’s goal is to change that; he’d like as many women to love Mazda as men. The hope is that by doing better through Drive For Good and building cars that fit all our stages of life, Mazda will do just that.

Here’s part of our interview with Russell Wager:

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss