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This Week's Issue

Top stories from the September 3 issue
One ad features the baking of a cake to celebrate a cancer-free milestone.
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With a pink cake, AutoNation Inc. is launching its largest advertising campaign yet: a $25 million nationwide initiative centered on Drive Pink, the retailer's mission to devote nearly all its philanthropic efforts to fighting cancer.

Two TV spots premiered during the Indy 500 last week to tease the campaign, which starts Wednesday, June 6, and runs at least through year end. The campaign budget demonstrates the outsized focus AutoNation is putting on Drive Pink, which pays special attention to breast cancer.

'Rate' tote bag Carvela 'Rate' Carvela The dealership group typically spends between $4 million and $5 million on campaigns unrelated to Drive Pink, said Marc Cannon, chief marketing officer.

AutoNation's second-largest campaign — at $18 million — was the launch of Drive Pink in 2015.

The latest ads build on previous initiatives, CEO Mike Jackson told Automotive News.

"We have really defined a purpose of the company that goes beyond selling cars and fixing cars. Our employees across the company have embraced it. Our customers have embraced it," Jackson said.

"We always challenge ourselves to go to the next level. I think we're on the verge of an exciting new chapter that will raise significantly more funds for cancer research across the country, and our employees are behind it."

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The campaign includes four TV spots that will run on Fox Business and CNBC and during college and NFL football games, Cannon said. One commemorates a young mother's five-year cancer-free anniversary with a pink cake baked by her husband and son. Another shows race car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay explaining why he "drives pink." All reference the song "Give Love" by Andy Grammer.

In addition to TV, the campaign features radio, print, online, in-store, direct mail and social media components.

AutoNation, the country's largest new-car retailer, also signed a multiyear partnership with Grammer, a multiplatinum singer, songwriter and record producer. The company will host a fundraiser Sept. 29 with a Grammer concert in its hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. AutoNation aims to raise $500,000 to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the AutoNation Institute for Breast Cancer Research at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. It also will sponsor a 12-city extension of Grammer's tour with $5 per ticket sold going to the foundation.

Parts of the campaign likely will extend into 2019, Cannon said.

"This is a living thing. This is the first phase of it," he said. It "shows that we are taking Drive Pink to the next level."

This year alone, AutoNation expects to raise $5 million through Drive Pink.

"If I look at the arc of this, it's an amazing story of how this has been embraced by the company," Jackson said.

"Having a unified sense of purpose for the company is really now a foundational element of our culture within the company and really is something that binds us together."

You can reach Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com -- Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hm_lutz

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