Jaguar Land Rover’s latest partnership with pop starlet Dua Lipa is sure to have raised a few eyebrows. The partnership is part of a drive to promote the new Jaguar I-PACE. For a brand that’s usually been marketed at a middle-aged male audience, it’s a seemingly uncharacteristic decision. It definitely caught our attention. However, looking past the initial surprise, we think this has potential to be JLR’s shrewdest marketing move in recent years. Here’s why…

As well as releasing an ad on YouTube a few days ago, Dua Lipa’s been posting Instagram stories to her 17 million followers of her driving around in the vehicle. She’s also been teasing an exclusive gig in Amsterdam on September 3rd where she will apparently be performing with the car. This collaboration is more than just a quick celebrity cash-in, but why choose Dua?

Although JLR avoided the slump in sales that the majority of the UK automotive market experienced in 2017, (in part thanks to government policy trying to push motorists away from diesel), sales of Jaguars in the UK and across Europe have stagnated. As 90% of Jaguar’s current range of vehicles are diesel-powered, it’s only a matter of time before government legislation and public opinion force those sales figures to decrease.

Jaguar have seen success overseas in moving their F-Pace SUVs but have been trying for a few years now to shed its old identity on home turf. The classic Jaguar brand is so well ingrained into the British consciousness that it’s working against them. They needed to do something bold to future-proof their offering and reinvigorate their identity. The I-PACE is Jaguar’s first all-electric car. That in and of itself is a big step for the brand.

Looking at the competition, the I-PACE is going head-to-head with the Tesla Model X SUV, undercutting its RRP by about £7,000. In the States, the Model X is primarily bought by Gen X’ers earning over $100,000, 30% of whom are women (up from 15% with the Model S).

In partnering with Spotify’s most streamed female music artist of 2017, JLR are pushing harder than ever before for a new, younger, and mostly female audience. This pairing is only the first in a series which JLR refer to as The Pace; “leading-edge cultural experiences, shaped in partnership with innovative creators”.

By exploring JLR’s past marketing techniques, we also see that this partnership isn’t quite so uncharacteristic after all. This isn’t the first time the brand has experimented with unexpected ambassadors. The royal family, Jamie Oliver, even the fictional guitarist from Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz have been used to promote their cars and services in the past. Why? Because partnering with surprising influencers gives even the most established brands agility. It provides them with the power to leverage someone else’s audience and identity to reimagine their own.

It can be a risky strategy. There’s no guarantee that the partnership will create the desired shift in perception and the wrong influencer choice could even end up causing damage. But, to be disruptive, risks are necessary. If this one plays out the way JLR hope it will, the rewards will be huge. In any case, we’re intrigued to see which other creators will be revealed as part of The Pace, which audience they will be targeting, and what the enigmatic Dua Lipa gig will entail.