At Cleveland Browns games, General Motors displays a Chevrolet vehicle during a halftime promotion called 'Kick for Keys.' One fan per game tries to kick a field goal from 40 yards to win the vehicle.
The new Browns sponsorship is an example of how GM's five new marketing and sales regions are cranking up local sponsorships and promotions. It reflects GM's overall strategy to de-emphasize mass marketing on, say, TV, in favor of more targeted local efforts.
Mike O'Malley, general manager of GM's North Central region, spelled out his regional vision last week in a speech to Chicago-area broadcasters in Oak Brook, Ill. It was the most detailed explanation yet of GM's regional marketing plans.
GM's five regions were born in January under a reorganization aimed at pushing decision making away from Detroit. The five are based in Naperville, Ill.; Atlanta; Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Purchase, N.Y.; and Irving, Texas.
CHALLENGING THE MEDIA
Many dealers are unhappy with the reorganization, including GM's decision to ax dealer advertising associations as of April 1, 1999. Smaller-market dealers are the most likely to complain that TV advertising in their markets has declined significantly.
O'Malley challenged the more than 100 attendees at the broadcasters' meeting to bring proposals to his region for local events to 'extend our products into people's lives,' rather than merely present media buys.
Other carmakers routinely make similar challenges to the media.
'But what hasn't been done for the most part is vehicle companies have not engaged these media outlets on a local basis,' such as in Chicago, O'Malley told Automotive News.
GM's North Central region has also inked a sponsorship of the Columbus Blue Jackets, a National Hockey League expansion team. Recently, it started a promotion with ESPN Radio 1000's 'Huge Show' in Chicago. The region gave the co-hosts of the sports show a Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo to drive for a month.
Jim Brown Sr., a Chevrolet dealer near Cleveland who is no relation to the former Browns star, said his defunct dealer ad association couldn't afford to sponsor the Browns. He said GM probably 'did a better deal negotiating' than the dealer group could have.
O'Malley declined to discuss several topics: GM's plans to buy roughly 770 GM dealerships in the top 130 markets (see story on Page 4); the Chicago-area dealers' lawsuit against the carmaker over the death of their dealer advertising group; and regional media-spending plans.
Three of six GM dealers contacted around the country said GM is spending more on media for ads in their areas than under the old system. Those three are all near major cities. The three others - all in smaller markets - said the local ad spending is far lower.
GM's regional ad staff in the Northeast is 'spending more money and attempting to communicate better,' said John Miller, a Chevrolet dealer in Baltimore.
But a dealer in the South Central region, who asked not to be named, said his market is merely getting a few newspaper ads, with virtually no TV or radio buys by the region.