GM EXEC SHOWCASES LOCALLY TARGETED TIE-INS: DEALERS ASKED TO OFFER EVENT IDEAS AS CARMAKER LOOKS BEYOND MEDIA BUYS

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At Cleveland Browns games, General Motors Corp. displays a Chevrolet vehicle during a halftime promotion called "Kick for Keys." One fan per game tries to kick a field goal from 40 yards to win the vehicle.

The new Browns sponsorship is an example of how GM's five new marketing and sales regions are cranking up local sponsorships and promotions. It reflects GM's overall strategy to de-emphasize mass marketing, on say TV, in favor of more targeted local efforts.

Mike O'Malley, general manager of GM's North Central region, spelled out his regional vision in a recent speech to the Illinois chapter of the National Association of Broadcasters; it was the most detailed explanation yet of GM's regional marketing plans.

GM's five regions were born in January under a reorganization aimed at pushing decisionmaking away from Detroit. They are based in Atlanta; Naperville, Ill.; Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Purchase, N.Y.; and Irving, Texas.

Many dealers are unhappy with the reorganization, including GM's decision to ax dealer ad associations as of last April.

Mr. O'Malley challenged the more than 100 attendees at the broadcasters' meeting to bring proposals to his region for local events to "extend our products into people's lives" rather than merely present media buys.

NHL TIE-IN

GM's North Central region has also inked a sponsorship of the Columbus Blue Jackets, a National Hockey League expansion team. Recently, it started a promotion with ESPN Radio 1000's "Huge Show" in Chicago. The regional office gave the co-hosts of the sports show a Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo to drive for a month.

Jim Brown Sr., a Chevrolet dealer near Cleveland who is no relation to the former Browns star, said his defunct dealer ad association couldn't afford to sponsor the Browns. He said GM probably "did a better deal negotiating" than the dealer group could have.

Three of six GM dealers contacted around the country said GM is spending more on media for ads in their areas than under the old system. Those three are all near major cities. The three others -- all in smaller markets -- said the local ad spending is far lower.

GM's regional ad staff in the Northeast is "spending more money and attempting to communicate better," said John Miller, a Chevrolet dealer in Baltimore.

But a dealer in the South Central region, who asked not to be named, said his market is merely getting a few newspaper ads, with virtually no TV or radio buys by the region.

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