Crain News Service
General Motors has devised a new system to get more benefits from its U.S. Olympic Committee sponsorship deal.
GM has chosen car and truck brands that will get the most ad support keyed to specific sports. The plan is based on an internal study of consumers.
With the new system, GM expects not to repeat the low level of consumer awareness it received for its sponsorship of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team and Summer Games in Atlanta.
GM paid an estimated $300 million to be the official domestic car and truck sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team through the 2008 Games, and an estimated $600 million for domestic auto exclusivity on NBC's coverage through that year.
In addition to its brand tie-ins, GM plans a major Olympic effort with the UAW. During GM's 1996 sponsorship, the automaker produced several commercials featuring UAW members and staged an Olympics tour of 120 plants in 13 states to rally employee enthusiasm.
AWARENESS IS KEY
One executive close to GM who requested anonymity said the marketer had too many vehicle brands involved in Atlanta, which confused consumers and resulted in low awareness of the company's involvement. 'Awareness is key because consumers who recognize you as an Olympic sponsor have a higher consideration of your brand,' the executive said.
A plus for GM is that there will be only one other auto sponsor for the 2000 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, fewer than for the Atlanta games, according to Gordon Kane, director of marketing and brand development for the U.S. Olympic Committee. He declined to name the other marketer.
Phil Guarascio, group vice president of marketing and advertising for GM in North America, explained in a speech at an International Events Group conference how GM's proprietary sports and entertainment tracking poll helped determine which sports best matched the company's car and truck consumers.
GM's poll studied Olympics audiences by dividing each of the marketer's sponsored U.S. Olympic teams into three segments: TV viewers of a sport, attendees, and participants and their families.
'The demographics and character set of these segments are not homogeneous.
'They shift from bucket to bucket,' said Guarascio, who declined to comment for this story.
GOLD MEDAL BRANDS
Based on the study, GM has picked 10 premier or 'gold medal brands,' which will get the most ad spending because those vehicles would benefit most from viewership of a particular sport.
Several Olympic sports will be tied to more than one GM vehicle. Also, the vehicles will get Olympics-tied ad support during non-games years as a bridge to Olympic years. For example, the Pontiac Grand Am will be the official car of the U.S. gymnastics team because the poll found the Grand Am would benefit most from gymnastics' viewership. The Pontiac Grand Prix will be the official car of the U.S. track and field team.
Pontiac's Montana minivan, better suited to families of gymnasts, will be displayed at local events, plus at Olympic events.
Chevrolet is the largest sponsor of the U.S. ski and snowboard team, which covers seven skiing disciplines, said Mac Whisner, director of truck advertising and promotion at the division. Skiers are three times more likely than nonskiers to buy a sport-utility, according to the study.