Automakers bumped up sponsorships

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Leading car marketers beefed up spending on sponsorships last year.

General Motors Corp. was the biggest spender in the industry, with $125 million to $130 million in 1999 sponsorships, according to estimates by IEG Sponsorship Report, a trade publication. In 1998, GM spent between $105 million and $110 million, IEG said.

The figures only cover fees paid for sponsorship rights and exclude charitable contributions, events or promotions created and sponsored by marketers. IEG's report in late December covered top spenders in all industries. Only five auto marketers made the list.

DaimlerChrysler's sponsorship expenditures last year were between $65 million and $70 million, compared with between $55 million and $60 million the previous year, IEG reported.

Ford Motor Co. increased spending from between $35 million and $40 million in 1998 to between $45 million and $50 million last year.

Sponsorship spending in 1999 for both Nissan North America and Toyota Motor Sales USA was the same as in 1998. Both carmakers spent between $10 million and $15 million.

Ford is in the midst of a "strategic shift" in ad and marketing spending, said Jim Schroer, VP-global marketing at the automaker. "In our industry, most of the marketing has been mass market on TV and mass-market print and discounting [of vehicles]," he said.

But Ford is on a quest to become a consumer-focused company, connecting with buyers and owners through relationship marketing.

"The art of connecting [to consumers] is much more powerful than mass communications and mass media," Mr. Schroer said. So Ford and its stable of vehicle brands plan to shift spending in mass communications "from ridiculously huge to manageable," he added, declining to discuss specifics.

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