‘Lincoln Lawyer’ to Lincoln Cars: Can Matt McConaughey Save the Brand?

For many, it’s difficult to separate actor Matthew McConaughey from his role as David Wooderson in 1993′s Dazed and Confused, his iconic portrayal of the 20-something who still gets his kicks hanging out with high schoolers. The versatile actor has come a long way since then, and displayed his abilities to be serious in more recent movies like Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, and has garnered recognition for his part opposite Woody Harrelson in True Detective. For his latest project, McConaughey will be pitching for Ford’s Lincoln brand in a bid to boost sales.

McConaughey will first be starring in a spot promoting the new Lincoln MKC crossover, an SUV based on the Ford Escape that could prove to be one of Lincoln’s most valuable additions to its lineup. The actor will be on board with Lincoln for two years.

“The MKC is the most promising product they have and they’re looking for a way to break through,” Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst for researcher Autotrader.com, told Bloomberg. “Matthew McConaughey is contemporary and he’s hot right now.” She added that Lincoln “lacks the edge and hipness McConaughey conveys,” and that the struggling luxury division is likely counting on McConaughey’s “edginess to attract attention to an auto brand forgotten by many,” Bloomberg quoted her as saying.

“Authenticity is a word that kept coming up in our initial meetings. It was clear from the start they appreciated me as an individual first and foremost, and I would be able to be myself in this collaboration,” McConaughey was quoted as saying in Lincoln’s press statement. He was described as “a longtime admirer of Lincoln.”

“Lincoln is an iconic, American brand, and I like where they are heading with their transformation. I had the chance to drive the new MKC around Texas and I think they’re doing a good job,” he continued.

2015 Lincoln MKC Hero Shot
Source: Lincoln

“Matthew is a natural fit with Lincoln and where we are going as a brand,” said Matt VanDyke, the director for Lincoln global. “Matthew is the ideal personality to help us tell this story, and it is only the beginning of what we trust will be a fantastic relationship.”

Although Lincoln’s U.S. sales rose 16 percent this year through July, they’re being contrasted with a year — 2013 — when the brand’s sales fell to a 32-year low. Since 1990, Lincoln sales have declined by some 65 percent. It’s the number eight luxury brand in the U.S., and Bloomberg points out it outsold by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio when compared to Cadillac. Lincoln’s chances were looking so bleak at one point that former Ford CEO Alan Mulally considered axing the brand entirely.

It was current CEO Mark Fields who convinced him that it was worth saving, and now the pressure is on him to deliver on that promise. So far, Lincoln has released just two of its new, completely redesigned vehicles — the MKZ sedan and the MKC crossover — and it made minor but noteworthy changes to its Navigator SUV. Those have been driving the brand’s sales so far this year, but Lincoln is still far from being a positive contributor to Ford’s bottom line.

At $33,995, the MKC is the most affordably priced luxury crossover, a move that’s undoubtably aimed at appealing to younger consumers — a consistent sore spot for Lincoln in the past. Though he’s 44, McConaughey still has the charisma needed to appeal to those in their late 20s and 30s, largely helped by his appearances in features like The Wolf of Wall Street, True Detective, and Magic Mike.

Celebrity endorsements have been successful for the likes of Chrysler (Eminem, Bob Dylan, and Clint Eastwood), Dodge (Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy), and Mercedes-Benz, which got in bed with Mad Men’s Jon Hamm. Whether it will prove to be the charm that Lincoln needs remains to be seen.