DETROIT - General Motors is considering making Chevrolet the lead division for all of its Olympic Games' sponsorships, after assessing Chevy's primary role in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
In the past, all GM divisions had a piece of the Olympics, but with a one-division strategy, GM was able to make the most of its biggest sponsorship, said Steve Tihanyi, GM's director of marketing alliances and regional operations. He said Chevrolet's brand awareness increased during the Winter Olympics, and dealers were especially satisfied.
GM planned for Pontiac-GMC to take over the Summer Olympics because Pontiac sponsored summer sports such as gymnastics and track and field. But the company is reconsidering as it defines marketing platforms for each brand.
"Every division's going to have a platform," Tihanyi said. "There are some that are very clearly defined at this point; others may not be."
For example, Buick owns golf. That's why GM may move Buick's WNBA sponsorship to another division, Tihanyi said.
Because of big GM incentives during the period, he said, it is difficult to attribute Chevrolet's 3.1 percent U.S. sales increase in the first four months of this year solely to the Winter Olympics, which were in February. The division's U.S. sales dropped 12.2 percent last month.
But Tihanyi said Chevrolet dealers were pleased with results from the Olympics. Of the 417 dealers who participated in the torch run:
Pontiac shouldn't feel too bad. GM still needs to assign a lead division for its NCAA sponsorship. "The NCAA is definitely on the front burner," Tihanyi said. "Personally, I think Pontiac would make an awful lot of sense for the NCAA."
In 1997, GM paid $900 million to be the exclusive domestic car and truck sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team from 1998 through 2008 and to be the exclusive domestic car and truck advertiser during NBC's broadcasts of the Olympics for that period.
The next Olympic Games will be in Athens, Greece, in 2004.
"From a media perspective, you won't see any difference," Tihanyi said. "But I can't execute on ground the way I did in Salt Lake City. Greece is not a large market for us." Even GM Europe passed on the opportunity.