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Ford hopes to enhance its image by pitching its Ford GT super car in two pre-kickoff ads.

Companies invest millions in ads, promos to reach 1 billion viewers worldwide

By Mike Hudson / The Detroit News

The Motor City is back in the big game.

For the first time in more than a decade, all three of Detroit’s automakers will have a significant presence during the Super Bowl broadcast, spending millions for advertising time and other promotions during the world’s biggest marketing bonanza.

The Super Bowl offers a rare and pricey chance to reach 130 million viewers in the United States and 1 billion worldwide.

Advertisers further benefit from the postgame buzz as marketing experts and couch potatoes spend a couple days debating the best and worst commercials.

Ford Motor Co. is sponsoring the pregame show on CBS and buying time for two ads that will be broadcast before kickoff — a 30-second spot and a 60-second spot — featuring its 500-hp $140,000 Ford GT super car.

General Motors Corp. is digging deep for prime Super Bowl exposure this year, buying up two 60-second ads for its Chevrolet and Cadillac brands at a cost of more than $4 million each.

GM will also run ads immediately after the game. Cadillac will specifically sponsor the postgame show, the most valuable player trophy and the two-minute warning and will give away vehicles to top-performing players.

And DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group, still smarting from an aborted attempt to host a pay-per-view “Lingerie Bowl” at half-time, will run a 30-second Dodge ad during the first quarter of the game.

The Lingerie Bowl, which will feature underwear-clad models playing football, is now being sponsored by an online gambling site.

“This year is a very important year because we’re showing that the domestic auto industry is a force to be reckoned with on the largest stage there is in advertising,” said Michael Bernacchi, marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy.

“They are saying ‘We’re getting ready to be a dominant force again.’ ”

Cable television, digital recorders and fickle viewership trends have made the Super Bowl’s massive audience more valuable than ever in the past five years.

The game guarantees a rapt audience, especially among young men, a key consumer demographic for automakers.

And with women making up 46 percent of the game’s audience, advertisers can appeal to nearly any market they please.

“You’ve got viewers going in a hundred different directions in television, but with this game, you know you’ll get them all,” said John Antil, a marketing professor at the University of Delaware. “This is the one place where the mass audience still is every year.”

Zeppelin boosts Caddy

Cadillac found success last year with a Super Bowl ad that featured now well-known Led Zeppelin background music. The ad scored well in USA Today’s Super Bowl advertisement poll — a first for a car company.

Cadillac will be using Led Zeppelin again this year in an ad featuring the XLR sports coupe, CTS-V sedan, Escalade sport utility and SRX crossover vehicle.

Chevrolet plans to run an ad based in its new “American Revolution” marketing campaign.

“We’re in the Super Bowl again because we’ve found that our customers are highly event driven,” said Jeff Kuhlman, spokesman for Cadillac marketing.

“They watch big events on TV. We also take a big stake in the Academy Awards, the Ryder Cup, Wimbledon and those type of major occasions.”

Ford’s ads will promote the GT, although the car, which goes into limited production this year, is virtually sold out. The automaker is using the game and the GT’s dynamic looks to enhance the company’s image.

“Ford GT is the ultimate statement in metal, proving what the people at Ford are capable of,” spokesman Jon Harmon said. “It’s the pace car for the entire company.

“We needed to feature the GT in a very prominent way to kick off what we are calling ‘the year of the car.’ The perfect place is the Super Bowl.”

Chrysler spokesman David Elshoff said the big game is an unparalleled opportunity to pitch the automaker’s macho Dodge brand, whose big Ram trucks and Durango sport utility vehicles appeal to male buyers.

“No event universally delivers males as well as the Super Bowl,” Elshoff said.

Chrysler bought two 30-second spots during last year’s game. One touted the Chrysler brand and featured pop singer Celine Dion, who has since virtually disappeared from Chrysler advertising because of poor response. The other ad highlighted Dodge’s “Hemi”-powered Ram trucks.

GM’s huge ad buy this year places the automaker third among all advertisers for the Super Bowl, spending a total of about $9 million.

Only Pepsi Co., with $13.5 million, and Anheuser-Busch, with $22.5 million, are spending more. There are typically 59 to 61 slots for 30-second commercials per Super Bowl.

Spots cost 5 percent more

It promises to be a solid year for advertising overall, analysts say, with CBS charging about 5 percent more per 30-second spot than last year. This year’s rate is estimated to be $2.25 million for 30 seconds, according to Advertising Age magazine.

If a company’s ad resonates with an audience, that money is well spent, analysts say. The Super Bowl boasts viewers worldwide who are more attuned than normal viewers to watching the commercials.

Another important marketing segment is behind the scenes, where companies sponsor games, parties and information booths for those in attendance — usually high-income business people and celebrities who enjoy spending their cash.

GM will provide 400 Cadillacs for use by the National Football League to transport officials and workers in Houston. The company will sponsor a celebrity go-cart race that featured stars like Ashton Kutcher last year.

GM will take care of some business as well by inviting the top 200 GM dealers to Houston for a 2004 kickoff meeting over the weekend. But to get their ticket to the game, dealers have to attend the full business session.

“Corporations are willing to pay top dollar to go to the World Series or Super Bowl, as long as it offers them an opportunity to close deals and network with professional athletes,” said Robert Tuchman, president and CEO of TSE Sports consulting in New York.

“Sports remains the great divide through which many corporations continue to market and travel to sell their products.”

Ford's GT stars in two spots. "We needed to feature the GT in a very prominent way to kick off what we are calling 'the year of the car,' " spokesman Jon Harmon says.

Big spenders
Top advertisers in the Super Bowl (in millions):

1. Anheuser-Busch $22.5
2. Pepsi Co. $13.5
3. General Motors Corp. $9
4. America Online $6.75
5. National Football League $6.75
6. $4.5
7. Sony Pictures $4.5
8. Universal Pictures $4.5
9. Warner Bros. $4.5
10. Tie among 51 others $2.25

Source: University of Detroit Mercy
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