There’s endless amounts of iPhone apps that are generating some serious money for big brands, all the way from Pizza Hut ($millions) to eBay ($billions). While ‘mobile strategists’ bang on about ‘mobile web first’, there’s no denying that the right idea mixed with an app at the right time, can drive big revenues.

Check out this iPhone app from Volkswagen to mark the launch of the Golf GTI Mark VI in the states. One thing to note is that there was no paid media surrounding the launch, it was purely off the back off the iPhone app.

Volkswagen, with the help of AKQA, decided to create a car game, but rather than go through the risk and cost of building one from scratch they decided to reskin a already established racer on the market. So they took the popular racing game called Real Racing (retailing at $4.99) and created a sponsored version of the game, calling it “Real Racing GTI”, then gave it away for free.

As you can imagine the game features the Golf GTI as the selectable car and features VW branding throughtout.

The clever bit is that users were invited to use the iPhones GPS functionality to locate their nearest dealer. This data enabled AKQA to directly trace purchases of the GTI Mark VI directly back to the app.

On top of all that, VW added incentive by challenging players with the reward of winning one of 6 real Golf GTI. Spot on.

So what were the results –

175 cars sold to registered players of the application, 50% of those sales to new customers.

The car retailed for $23,000, making at least $4 million in revenue.

Clickz.com makes a very valid point in that those are only the sales directly linked with the application. Once you look at the huge amount of ratings the app received (50,000) as well as it hitting number one in the download charts, the brand awareness must have also been sky high.

Congrats AQKA on a wicked exection and VW for putting promotional muscle behind the app.