GM refines aim of Concept:Cure co-op program

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General Motors Corp. is narrowing the focus of its Concept:Cure effort for funding breast cancer research, aiming the program at young female buyers under age 30.

Candace Robbins, director of co-op marketing and entertainment alliances at GM, said the program was offered to all GM's vehicle brand teams. But only Chevrolet's Cavalier team has opted to weave Concept:Cure into its marketing program for the 2001 model year, commissioning designers Tommy Hilfiger and Betsey Johnson to refashion separate Cavaliers. In past years, four or five fashion designers worked on the interiors and exteriors of vehicles from several GM divisions.

Other GM vehicles plan less ambitious programs for tapping into Concept:Cure. Ms. Robbins said Oldsmobile will tie into the program for its women's golf scramble, while GM's West Coast region will link into it as part of a test-drive effort.

BUDGET STABLE

She denied Concept:Cure's budget was trimmed to $4 million this year from $13 million last year (AA, June 19). That report followed a controversy at GM involving an audit of the company's corporate advertising department, causing GM to dispute rumors that the audit came in response to the departure of Dean Rotando, who had worked closely on Concept:Cure with the program's creator Harris Marketing, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Harris is handling the advertising for Concept:Cure that breaks in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Molly Peck, assistant brand manager-marketing at Cavalier, said four creative campaigns are currently in test.

The ads target younger women, a switch from GM's earlier, more broad-scale demographic approach for Concept:Cure. The breast cancer awareness tie is "part of our educational message," to young female prospects, Ms. Peck said.

MUSIC TOUR

Cavalier's Concept:Cure marketing will include a music tour to 10 college campuses, two fashion show events at shopping malls in Miami and the Los Angeles area, and a sweepstakes starting in October to win a car and donate to breast cancer research. Chevrolet again will advertise in Conde Nast Publications' magazines to promote the mall fashion shows, which in the past weren't tied to Concept:Cure.

"We know fashion and style are important to our target," Ms. Peck said.

The Cavalier program raises the question whether Concept:Cure is an issue that will resonate with women under 30. Women in their 20s "are nowhere near the risk group," said David Morrison, president of consultancy Twenty-Something. But he added, "many have had scares with breast cancer," either personal or with family members.

Chevrolet spent $4 million in measured media on Cavalier during first quarter 2000, and $58 million in all of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Cavalier has been GM's best-selling car, with 272,122 unit sold last year. But sales slipped by 22.1% to 121,375 units in the first half of 2000, GM reported earlier this month. The car has more competition from fresher models, namely Toyota Motor Sales USA's Echo and Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Focus. GM delayed a major redesign for the car by two years, until calendar 2004, according to Automotive News.

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