MARKETERS GET THEIR SUPER BOWL PARTY ON IN MOTOWN

Rich Thomaselli Reports From Motor City

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -– If all they wanted was brand awareness, it would have been easier -- and in some cases, cheaper -- for marketers to shell out up to $2.5 million for a 30-second spot Sunday on ABC’s telecast of Super Bowl XL.
Ad Age reporter Rich Thomaselli is reporting from Detroit.
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But marketers like Playboy and Dennis Publishing’s Maxim magazines, Nike and even cable TV’s The Learning Channel are all looking for something more than brand awareness -- they want brand enhancement.

“We’re a big, mass magazine. We already have brand awareness,” said Rob Gregory, group publisher at Maxim. “But having a presence at the Super Bowl, with our party, puts our brand at the highest end of the aspiration level. It also helps us break a lot of new business.

'Celebrity-centric glitz'
“You know, it’s funny. Cindy Gallop (former Bartle Bogle Hegarty president) once tried to convince me that Maxim should do a 60-second spot, and we’d make it the most insane thing ever," he continued. "But the thing about doing the party instead is it brings to life the most exclusive, celebrity-centric glitzy slice of our demographic.”

Maxim isn’t the only marketer hosting a bash. Playboy will have its annual party at Detroit City Airport, renting out an entire airline hangar and dubbing the party the “Eight Mile High Club.” The airport is located on Eight Mile Road, the dividing line between the city of Detroit and the suburbs made famous by rapper and Michigan native Eminem in the movie “Eight Mile.” Red-hot hip-hop artist Kanye West is the headliner.

“Years back, when we first started talking about doing something like this, we wanted to find something to bring our clients and VIPs to,” said Lisa Natale, senior VP-corporate events and promotions, Playboy Enterprises. “A commercial just doesn’t allow us to do that. We get to use this to leverage other business, and you can’t do that with a television spot. When I think of a TV commercial,

Photo: AP
Kanye West will headline Playboy's “Eight Mile High Club” Super Bowl party at Detroit City Airport.
it’s really branding at its basic level. When I think of an event like ours, I think of brand enhancement. You go way beyond branding with something like this.”

Nike will also have a presence during the week. The Swoosh has taken over the restaurant owned by Detroit Red Wings hockey star Chris Chelios (Cheli's Chili) for four days to entertain guests and VIPs.

Snoop Dogg and tattoos
Rapper Snoop Dogg and Motley Crue drummer/reality TV star Tommy Lee will headline the party by Penthouse magazine. The Learning Channel will promote its reality TV show “Miami Ink” with a party, where guests can get a tattoo and where some big-name rock bands are rumored to show to play a set.

Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated will have its annual party, sponsored by Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser, to promote its upcoming swimsuit issue. Even adult entertainment company Vivid Video, along with porn star Jenna Jameson’s Club Jenna, will be hosting a party for the first time.

“This is not an event we look to make money on, believe me,” said Vivid CEO Steven Hirsch. “We thought about this for several years and this is something we wanted to be involved in. Unquestionably, there’s something special about the Super Bowl and the cachet that goes into it.”

For Maxim, Saturday night will be its fifth Super Bowl party. Dubbed “Maxim Rock City,” it will be held at Orchestra Hall in downtown Detroit, although Mr. Gregory didn't want to confirm that, since the exclusivity and mystery of where the party will be plays into the aura of the event. The theme of the party is '70s rock, with decorative influences based on The Who film “Tommy,” David Bowie and Kiss.

Reebok, Coors Brewing Co., the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, as well as newcomer General Motors Corp.’s Cadillac, are all co-sponsoring the Maxim party. Cadillac will feature the 2007 Escalade. Bottles of Coors Light will be presented with images of the rock classic “Pinball Wizard.” Reebok will dole out pairs of sneakers while promoting its “I Am” advertising campaign.

1,800 A-list guests
All for about 1,800 A-list guests. “There are multiple benefits to something like this,” Mr. Gregory said. “The press impressions alone are important. It’s an opportunity to entertain CEOs. We get a lot of ad agency CEOs. This is entertainment at the C-suite level.”

Mr. Gregory said he didn't view Super Bowl parties hosted by other marketers as competition. “This is all about the power of the red carpet,” he said. “We see our competition as the Vanity Fair Oscar night party or Mardi Gras or New Year’s Eve. If you do it right, it’s possible to create 100 million press impressions.”

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