Deal is part of a drive to reach younger buyers

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General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile on Oct. 7 launches a year-long exclusive sponsorship of Hot-Wired Network's Packet site, part of a quest to attract younger buyers to the struggling brand.

This week, Olds will feature a Web content module introducing itself as sponsor of Packet, a collection of daily commentaries on online technology, culture and the future.

Olds is the second major marketer to commit to a sponsorship program designed to tie marketers more closely with HotWired.

Levi Strauss & Co.'s Dockers earlier this year signed a one-year deal to sponsor Dream Jobs. That sponsorship involves co-marketing the Dream Jobs site and incorporating the Dockers name into content, something Oldsmobile won't do as part of its sponsorship.

"The Dockers brand at the Dream Jobs site can be integrated completely into site content because there's very little risk to the brand," said Hunter Madsen, VP-commercial strategy at HotWired. "In Packet, where there's rough and tumble commentary . . . it's not wise for Olds to step in, roll up its sleeves and start swinging."


Olds doesn't seem concerned.

"There's a very clear demarcation between the editorial and advertising messages" in the deal between Olds and Packet, said Rishad Tobaccowala, president of Giant Step, Chicago, which developed the program for Olds. Giant Step is a unit of Leo Burnett USA, Olds' national agency.

The deal is one of Olds' biggest efforts to promote its marque online. The company last year opened an area called Celebrity Circle on America Online but only launched its home page on the Web a few months ago.

After the first week on Packet, Olds will present brand messages about its models, starting with the Bravada sport utility vehicle and Aurora.

"We're communicating what goes into the new cars. There's an amazing amount of imagination, and people should look at Oldsmobile" for that, Mr. Tobaccowala said.

The deal is believed to be well into six figures, but neither Mr. Tobaccowala nor Mr. Madsen would comment on the size.

Olds is having a tough time shaking off the image of "your father's Oldsmobile." Its sales through July were nearly 11% lower than a year ago. The median age of current Olds owners is 63, according to auto consultancy J.D. Power & Associates.

Olds would like to lower the age to around 40 with its newly designed models, an insider said. The Aurora sedan, launched in 1994, is designed to appeal to younger consumers that would typically buy an import.

Copyright October 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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