Bulking up on big-time sports
Mercedes, BMW spend on high-profile events
NEW YORK -- Mercedes-Benz and BMW will spend heavily in the next 18 months to sponsor and advertise during high-profile sporting events -- an increasingly important marketing tool as they battle for luxury sales leadership in the United States.
"For us, sports are huge and are TiVo-proof," said Dan Creed, vice president of marketing for BMW of North America, at the Automotive News Marketing Seminar here last week.
Mercedes will be all over next year's Super Bowl, to be played in the newly christened Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
"If you have the [Mercedes] star on the dome, it will be in all of the aerial shots," said Bernie Glaser, vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA.
BMW will be the official automotive sponsor of the February 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, just as it was at the recent Summer Games in London. Along with the global tie-in, BMW of North America is the official import-brand automotive sponsor of Team USA.
But BMW won't advertise during next year's Super Bowl.
"The Super Bowl is great but for $4 million for a 30-second commercial, if you go to fill up the guacamole bowl, you missed it," said Creed. "One thing about 17 days of the Summer Olympics, you did not miss a BMW spot. It was on every hour, every day."
Both brands have been bulking up on big-time sports. Mercedes sponsored the recent U.S. Open tennis tournament. In professional golf, the BMW Championship this month was the much-watched third leg of the FedEx Cup.
Mercedes will sponsor the Ryder Cup next month. It is also the exclusive automotive sponsor of the Masters and the PGA Championship.
"To some degree they may be going down this path because the other one is," said Robert Boland, professor of sports business at the New York University Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management. "They recognize they are in competition for a finite group. You are buying access to a rather wealthy audience."
According to Kantar Media, Mercedes-Benz USA spent $116 million on measured media through June compared with $48 million by BMW of North America.
"We have big plans for next year so we will have a substantial budget," said Glaser. And with an audience of more than 110 million viewers, he said, "the Super Bowl is the perfect venue for us to kick off the year -- but it only makes sense to engage in the Super Bowl if you have a story to tell."
In 2013, Mercedes will launch its redesigned S-class flagship sedan and the CLA, the first of a new family of front-wheel-drive compact cars. The E-class range will get a freshening.
Last fall, Mercedes-Benz signed a 10-year deal for naming rights to the Louisiana Superdome, home of the NFL's New Orleans Saints. The football team is owned by Tom Benson, who owns Mercedes-Benz dealerships in New Orleans and San Antonio.
BMW had a huge presence during the London Olympics as the only import-brand automotive advertiser on NBC telecasts of the games. General Motors is the official domestic automotive advertiser.
The Summer Olympics drew an audience of 219 million viewers in the United States.
At the 2014 Winter Olympics, BMW also will be the official partner of two Olympic governing bodies: bobsled and speed skating. Other car companies may sponsor events, such as skiing. But as the automotive sponsor of Team USA, only BMW can use the Olympic rings and Olympic athletes in its marketing.
This year, Olympic athletes made appearances at more than 300 BMW dealerships.
"It is great grass-roots brand marketing driving traffic," said Creed.
As sponsor of the U.S. Open, Mercedes has used tennis champ Roger Federer "as our brand ambassador," to launch the second generation of the GL SUV that went on sale this month.
"He is an icon and Mercedes-Benz correlates to the values he stands for," said Glaser.
BMW won the U.S. luxury sales race for the first time last year, with Mercedes second. Mercedes was ahead by 3,833 units through August of this year. At the Automotive News Marketing Seminar, Glaser and Creed each predicted that his brand would be the winner in 2012.
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