Automaker's Deal With P.O.D. Designed to Promote Solstice Roadster

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DETROIT -- Pontiac is hoping to get some mileage out of pairing up with rock band P.O.D.

The General Motors Corp.-owned automaker is using the high-energy, sports-themed song “Lights Out” from the three-time Grammy-nominated band as part of a campaign that ties in with this month’s college basketball tournament.
Rock band P.O.D. is cranking it up for Pontiac and its Solstice roadster for the duration of the March Madness playoff season.

The song, from P.O.D.’s recently released album “Testify,” is getting played during CBS's broadcast of the basketball tournament, in all six of Pontiac’s TV commercials and four radio spots, and in a new music video on Pontiac’s Web site at Pontiac.com. The music video, which is likely to appear in a month or so on MTV, shows the four band members arriving at a gig in two Pontiac Solstice roadsters.

20- and 30-somethings

P.O.D.’s main fan base is mostly 20- and 30-somethings, which overlaps with Solstice’s target market, said Don Peasley, VP-account director at Leo Burnett.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The seed for the deal with P.O.D. was planted on New Year’s Eve at the 8-month-old Pontiac Garage stage that’s housed above the automaker’s billboard in Times Square, where P.O.D. was performing, said Tim Cook, the band's agent. He said he was standing next to Dino Bernacchi, Pontiac’s advertising manager at the event, and mentioned that the marketer might be interested to hear a new song the band wrote.

Mr. Bernacchi said, “I immediately realized I could see the intensity of March Madness surrounded by these lyrics” in “Lights Out.” He passed it to his agency, Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett Detroit, Troy, Mich., to review. “Everyone agreed it had to be part of the nucleus of our campaign.”

Mr. Cook said, “I’m always looking for unique ways to promote the band and this was done outside of Atlantic Records,” the band’s Warner Bros. Music Group label.

Broad airplay exposure

The San Diego-bred quartet of born-again Christians released “Testify” Jan. 23. It’s their fourth album with Atlantic and their sixth overall. The deal with Pontiac is expected to give the song “Lights Out” and P.O.D.’s album considerable exposure beyond traditional radio airplay -- something bands and their labels are increasingly seeking. The album debuted at No. 9, according to Billboard.

For Pontiac, P.O.D. enables the automaker to partner with a hard rock band that fits well with its edgier image, especially at a time when it’s trying to reach out to younger males more than ever with redesigned or new vehicles, like the Solstice roadster.

Pontiac’s relationship with P.O.D. initially started in 2004, when Pontiac used the song “Boom” in its 2004 March Madness TV commercials, Mr. Peasley said. The new music video and the TV commercials are each distinct, although both feature the song, he said.

Pontiac brought the band’s song to CBS and asked how it could leverage it during NCAA “Road to the Final Four” broadcasts, said Chris Simko, senior VP-sports sales and marketing at the TV network. He said it was the first time a marketer had brought CBS a totally new kind of music to integrate into the NCAA broadcasts. “It’s the marketer as almost the content provider working with CBS and the NCAA.”

Major tournament sponsor

Pontiac’s parent, General Motors Corp., has been a major sponsor of the college basketball tournament on CBS since the 1990-1991 season and was once the biggest advertiser of the playoffs. GM is now one of three corporate championship sponsors with CBS and the NCAA along with Cingular and Coca-Cola.

While Pontiac and Leo Burnett filmed P.O.D.’s performance March 4, at Pontiac Garage for the TV commercials, CBS also did some filming so it would have its own video beds to use for its broadcasts.

Separately, Pontiac is in discussions with ABC to renew its one-year deal with late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live” for its Pontiac Garage West stage, which is set outside the show’s studios in Hollywood, said Mr. Bernacchi. He’s hoping the stage, now closed due to chillier weather, will reopen in May.

Mr. Bernacchi said Jimmy Kimmel regularly attracts younger viewers, especially college-age men.
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