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General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division is spending 25% of its 1997 Monte Carlo ad budget on motorsports.

The car brand, on the racing scene since its inception in 1972, uses its participation in the Nascar Winston Cup Series in two of the three TV spots supporting Monte Carlo's racing link. The second broke last week (AA, June 23).

Chevy agency Campbell-Ewald expects Chevrolet to crank up racing-related ads in 1998, although plans are still in development, said Michael Thoresen, VP-brand management supervisor at the Warren, Mich., shop.


GM's 2-year-old brand management system calls for more concise targeting, and that's feeding the racing link. Four Chevy models-or, four brands-are involved in the increasingly popular sport: Monte Carlo, Camaro, and the C-K and S-10 pickups.

"The thing about motorsports is it plays to both men and women, to enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts," Mr. Thoresen said. "We find motorsports is a good way to differentiate the car."

Attendance at Winston Cup stock car races has been rising annually every year since 1982, to 5.58 million last year, according to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s racing division. Total attendance at 13 major motorsport series, including Indy cars, was 15.4 million last year, up 7.9% from 1994.

"It's become a family activity," Mr. Thoreson said. "It's no longer a beer-and-Bubba sport."

Nascar research shows its fans have a 72% brand loyalty rate to its sponsors, topping tennis' 52% and golf's 47%.

Ron Stanley, Chevy S-10 brand manager, said "a significant ad budget" is dedicated to the pickup's participation in National Hot Rod Association events. And, he added, NHRA fans "are more interested in brands than drivers."

That circuit's demographics match S-10's, he said-primarily single males ages 18 to 34 with approximate incomes of $40,000.

Chevrolet spent $53 million in measured media support for the S-10 last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Mr. Stanley wouldn't break out expenditures geared toward racing.


S-10 has an ad tied to NHRA's new Pro Stock Truck exhibition series; it breaks this month in auto enthusiast magazines. Mr. Stanley said he'd want more ads tied to the series in 1998 if NHRA gives it official-race status.

The compact pickup is the name sponsor of the International Race to the Clouds July 4 at Pikes Peak in Colorado. Chevy S-10 banners will be placed along the 12-mile, uphill course for expected TV coverage, and TV spots will run during the five airings of the race on ESPN and ESPN2 from July 23 through Aug. 7.

The media buy and the sponsorship are not tied together.

If S-10 wins the race, it plans to do a so-called race-win ad the following day in USA Today to congratulate its winner.

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