GM Drops Out of Oscar, Emmy Broadcasts

Expense 'Difficult to Justify' As Company Struggles to Return to Profitability

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- For the first time in more than a decade, General Motors Corp. will be absent as a major sponsor of next year's glitzy Academy Awards broadcast on ABC. The auto giant also has dropped out as an advertiser in next month's broadcast of the Emmy Awards, also on the Walt Disney-owned network.

"These two properties were good in the past, but are not part of our business plan for next year," a spokeswoman told Advertising Age. When asked whether the decision to drop the Oscars and the Emmys off the media plan would extend into 2010 and beyond, she said those deals are negotiated annually, but GM's announcement signals a "longer-term move away" from the two award shows.

The carmaker will remain a TV advertiser of the Grammy Awards, Golden Globes and Country Music Awards, the spokeswoman said.

Inconvenient timing
The timing of the 2009 TV broadcasts for the Oscars and Emmys also don't fit with any of GM's major vehicle launch plans, "making it more difficult to justify the ROI," she said.

The retreats are part of GM's latest moves to cut its ad spending, announced by Chairman-CEO Rick Wagoner in a mid-July conference call as part of his broader plan to return the company to profitability.

Other sponsorships and TV deals may be in jeopardy.

The spokeswoman said she had no information to share on any of GM's golf promotional agreements, which include a high-profile sponsorship of Tiger Woods. She said as far as she knows GM will still have a 2009 presence on NCAA and National Football League TV programming, although GM is still negotiating on its long-standing Super Bowl sponsorship; NBC is broadcasting the game in 2009.

Wide-ranging re-evaluation
GM is still examining all of its ad buys and sponsorships for their costs, returns on investment, ratings and consumer engagement, according to Mark LaNeve, VP-vehicle sales service and marketing in North America, and Betsy Lazar, executive director-advertising and media operations.

ABC sought as much as $1.8 million for a 30-second commercial in this year's Oscars -- a 7% jump from 2007. But the broadcast in February drew the fewest viewers for the event since 1974, reaching approximately 32 million viewers vs. 40.2 million in 2007.

GM's involvement with the Oscars and other premium TV broadcasts goes beyond on-air ads. The marketer, the sole auto ad sponsor of ABC's 2008 broadcast, provided 75 environmentally friendly GMC and Chevrolet vehicles to shuttle celebrities to the red carpet and other Oscar-week events.

Last summer, GM confirmed it was ending its long-standing sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic Committee and NBC Universal's broadcasts of the Olympic Games at the end of 2008. GM at the time said it could reach the same audience using methods with more flexibility than the Olympics every two years. And Olympic Games held outside the U.S. made it difficult for GM to activate on-site programs.
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