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Special Project

Special Project
From the 5th Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

Subaru Celebrates Pets by Establishing National Make a Dog’s Day

Winner in Auto, Community or Employee Engagement

Gold Honor in Animal & Wildlife


Subaru of America is dedicated to being more than just a car company, and dedicates resources to making the world a better place through the causes that matter to its customer base, which is one of the reasons Subaru has the highest loyalty rate among automakers at 61.5%. In addition to preserving the environment, giving back to local communities and helping those in need, Subaru drivers are passionate about helping pets find loving homes—more than 60% of owners have a dog.


Subaru sought to reaffirm the brand’s commitment to pets through the media and receive credit for creating an ownable moment in time, while also driving pet adoptions and embodying the brand’s mission of being more than a car company. Further, we wanted to create a new way to support pets that makes a splash in a unique way and appeals to the dog-loving target by tapping into the brand’s long-running positioning around “Love” – to show love and respect to all people at every interaction with Subaru.

Strategy and Execution

To create a campaign around the brand’s longtime commitment to pets, we developed a holistic strategy for success. Subaru dedicated the month of October to supporting the well-being and protection of animals across the country – also known as the annual Subaru Loves Pets initiative –  as a result of a long-standing relationship with ASPCA, who identified October as National Adopt a Shelter Dog month. In 2019, Subaru established NMADD within the same month to further showcase its lifelong commitment to pets and understanding of what matters most to Subaru consumers.


Subaru created “National Make a Dog’s Day”, strategically tying the day to a special needs dog-centered creative concept, affectionately named “The Underdogs.” Using real shelter dogs with special needs as the face of the campaign, Subaru celebrated their individual conditions and encouraged retailers and consumers to celebrate them too, driving awareness of the very real gap in adoptions these animals face. The impact of supporting pets was brought to life through creative, social media, PR, in-retailer promotion and advertising.


Consumers identify Subaru as a brand synonymous with pets, as established by the brand’s popular spokespeople dog family – the Barkleys – that frequently star in Subaru ads. Subaru expanded upon this dog-loving brand perception to drive awareness for an issue deeply ingrained in the shelter system, yet rarely addressed – helping dogs with special needs (including blind, deaf, two or three-legged dogs, dogs in wheelchairs, skin conditions, chronic illness, diabetes, allergies, cancer, etc.) get adopted. These dogs are classified as the least likely to get adopted. Approximately 3.3 million dogs enter shelters in the U.S. annually and 35 percent of the animals that enter shelters are euthanized.


Subaru gave a face to this underserved group of pets by creating a multifaceted campaign to drive awareness for special needs dogs and the Subaru brand:


  1. Launched a nationwide effort to help the hardest-to-adopt shelter dogs find loving homes and established National Make a Dog’s Day (NMADD) as an official annual “holiday” on October 22 – to celebrate dogs and the love with which they fill their human companions.
  2. Developed dog-focused advertising campaign – "The Underdogs” – featuring real special needs dogs from shelters, seeking adoption, captured by National Geographic photographer, Vincent Musi. Bringing awareness to a very real issue that even though The Underdogs might look different, love, is love.
  3. Created social CTA for consumers to celebrate the dogs in their lives on October 22, using #MakeADogsDay.
  4. Worked with retailers across the country to host events to collect unused pet supplies and donations for local pet shelters.
  5. Executed targeted integrations through broadcast, digital/streaming, including TODAY Show, GMA, National Geographic partnership; showing that Subaru focused media spend around bringing awareness to pets, rather than on vehicles.

Earned media tactics used in promotional efforts included message development, news announcements (ad campaign, Subaru Loves Pets month, article to establish holiday), asset creation, widespread media outreach to drive awareness of brand’s pet-focused mission, holiday and need to rehome dogs least likely to be adopted.


  1. Overall media efforts resulted in 595 million impressions with 98 percent positive sentiment. Forty-seven percent of all mentions of NMADD included Subaru by name.
  2. Search volume for “Subaru dogs” keywords was at the highest level since 2016.
  3. The brand saw 76,000 mentions of #MakeADogsDay​ on social media; high-profile organic mentions included Newsweek, musical artist Sia, the Telemundo Morning show, National Geographic’s Vincent Musi and the BuzzFeed AM2DM morning show.
  4. The campaign was awarded ‘Best Purpose Driven Launch’ on Twitter in 2019 and Subaru increased its Facebook following by 25 percent during the week of the campaign. Based on user engagement, the campaign heightened brand awareness on social media while boosting reach and brand affinity among owners.
  5. Working with its retailers across the country, Subaru donated 5,500 shelter supply kits and 4,800 new pet parent kits to local shelters.
  6. All adoptable dogs featured in The Underdogs ads found homes and 47 Subaru retailers held events with their local shelters, resulting in direct impact to an estimated 2,578 animals.
  7. Subaru donated tens of thousands of dollars to ASPCA.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Subaru of America


Entry Credits