SUNFIRE AUTO DEBUT TAKES MUSICAL TURN

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The new Pontiac Sunfire is using music to create a youthful image. Along the way, it hopes to hang the blues on Neon and other small cars.

The key element in Pontiac's integrated marketing approach is title sponsorship of videotaped "live" performances broadcast each Friday night and repeated Saturdays on superstation TBS.

Artists such as George Thorogood with John Hammond and Marshall Crenshaw, who appear this coming weekend, perform at the House of Blues in Los Angeles in an hourlong show reminiscent of MTV: Music Television's "Unplugged" series.

The program is being billed as "Live From the House of Blues Presented by Pontiac Sunfire," and includes pop, rock, jazz, country and blues performers.

Programs are simulcast on CBS radio network stations, with two Sunfire commercials running on each of the radio broadcasts.

John Gray, Sunfire brand marketing strategy manager, said the car is also being promoted in a sweepstakes tied to the show that includes "watch and win" promotional announcements on the program.

Pontiac airs three 30-second Sunfire spots and gets four billboards per TV broadcast, and will be mentioned in 3,600 promotional announcements on the show being aired on Ted Turner's TBS, TNT, CNN and Headline News throughout the 52-week schedule.

The sponsorship is part of an estimated $40 million marketing launch for the Sunfire, a compact car aimed at active young singles and couples ages 18 to 34.

That's basically the same group Chrysler Corp. targeted when it brought out its Neon a year ago, with an ad campaign from BBDO Worldwide, Southfield, Mich., that featured the car saying "Hi."

If Neon has exuded friendliness, Pontiac is looking to create a more sassy aura for its entry.

Sunfire's greeting would probably be a "Yo" instead of a "Hi," said John Middlebrook, VP-general manager of the General Motors Corp. division.

Sunfire advertising from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Bloomfield Hills, features irreverent vignettes such as depictions of the car driving on the Great Wall of China and hauling away one of the large carved heads on Easter Island (AA, Aug. 29).

The TBS show is produced by the House of Blues' in-house production company, House of Blues Productions, and A Vision Entertainment, and is licensed to the Turner Broadcasting System superstation by Warner Bros. Pay-TV, Cable & Network Features.

Kate Fitzgerald coordinates Promotion Marketing News. You can reach us by fax at (312) 649-5331 or e-mail address K8FITZ-@aol.com.

Next Promotion Marketing News appears March 6.

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