FEMALE CREW STEERS CHEVY'S AMERICA3 ASSAULT

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Win or lose, the all-female America3 crew is a marketer's dream come true for Chevrolet.

The publicity barrage being generated by the team is going a long way toward justifying Chevy's sponsorship, at an estimated cost of $3 million.

In addition, the General Motors Corp. division will leverage the investment with an integrated marketing effort that will include advertising, direct marketing, cross-promotions involving mall tours and boat shows, interactive media and trade incentives for dealers.

Chevrolet will aim its marketing at two targets, upscale buyers for products such as the Corvette and sport-utility vehicles, and women prospects for the Cavalier, Camaro and Monte Carlo cars and Blazer sport-utility.

"We're very excited by the opportunity to bring this sponsorship to a much broader audience," said Steve McAvoy, manager of Chevrolet car marketing. "[Winning] would just be icing on the cake."

Chevrolet also sponsored America3 (read the "3" as "cubed") when Bill Koch skippered it to victory in the 1992 America's Cup yacht race. This time around Mr. Koch, chairman-CEO of the America3 Foundation, has stirred interest with the decision to go with an all-female crew.

The competition starts in mid-January in San Diego and ends with the finals in May, pitting a U.S. defender against the winner from among eight foreign teams. Chevrolet sister GM division Cadillac is a sponsor of Team Dennis Conner, and Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln brand is helping underwrite Pact 95, the other U.S. competitor.

But it's the America3 team that has been reaping most of the publicity so far, with features on shows like "Dateline NBC" and network news programming, as well as numerous stories in national and local publications.

Chevrolet is a presenting sponsor, the top level of sponsorship for America3. That means the Genuine Chevrolet slogan will fly on the spinnaker and appear on crew members' uniforms.

Chevrolet is teaming with four other sponsors-Glamour, Lifetime cable network, Gillette Co. and Motorola-for a tour with America3-related displays that will go to malls in 20 markets and 12 boat shows.

In January, Chevrolet will go online with Prodigy, providing racing updates while offering subscribers a chance to request information on Chevy products.

The division will be the exclusive auto sponsor of America's Cup races on ESPN2, and will share the auto category with Cadillac as sponsor of the races on ESPN. Altogether, Chevy will have 240 commercial slots on the two cable networks to advertise its vehicles, including the new Tahoe full-size sport-utility that bows in the spring.

Lintas Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., is expected to develop creative featuring the America3 crew for TV and a print effort for women's and lifestyle magazines.

The direct marketing effort, by Lintas Marketing Communications, will go to 1 million prospects, including a brochure about the America3 crew and information on vehicles.

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