Separately, a Jeep sports marketing executive last weekend was expected to pitch a cadre of marketers-including AT&T, IBM Corp., Reebok International and Visa USA-about joining Chrysler in forming a syndicate to create made-for-TV sports events. The group also would purchase complete sponsorship rights and all TV time offered by existing sports properties that satisfy their marketing objectives.
Both plans underscored a recurring theme last week at the International Sports Summit here: Advertisers are the real power players in the business of sports, and their influence can only increase.
Chrysler's divisions spend $40 million combined on event and sports marketing, said Jeep Sports Marketing Manager Lou Pitonti during a speech at the summit.
The proposed special events unit would handle those programs for all divisions and would also buy media for those events. Such consolidation would lead to greater efficiency in the implementation of programs and more cross-promotion between divisions.
It isn't clear, however, whether the proposed unit would remain part of the automaker like Anheuser-Busch's sports marketing group or be separate like Pentacom, a BBDO Worldwide subsidiary. Pentacom, Troy, Mich., currently buys all Chrysler media.
A spokesman acknowledged Chrysler has explored the idea of a separate organization to handle events marketing, but said no decision has been made. It also is unclear if Mr. Pitonti would head it, although he indicated he would like to.
In addition to managing Chrysler's various sponsorships of pro leagues, the proposed unit would create made-for-TV sports events, like the current "Jeep King of the Mountain Downhill Series" of skiing events. Eclipse Television is producing and syndicating the series in three 1-hour shows. Sports Marketing Inc. put the package together.
Last weekend, Mr. Pitonti was expected to pitch "King of the Mountain" sponsors in Heavenly, Calif., about forming the syndicate. Members would have varying degrees of participation in the events, depending on their marketing objectives.
"I think I can pull that off," he said.
However, sports marketing executives at the Sports Summit weren't so sure. One reason why such a syndicate might not fly is participating members could risk alienating present or future marketing partners.
"For example, if Jeep is working with Reebok exclusively to create events in this syndicate, it might rankle a non-member, say a General Motors, that could be working with Reebok exclusively on something else," said one sports marketing executive. "It could set off a chain reaction of alienation, and it wouldn't be worth it." Raymond Serafin in Detroit contributed to this story.