General Motors links with

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General motors corp. inked its first multicultural online alliance with in a three-year partnership deal worth between $10 million and $15 million.

This deal, an extension of GM's African-American efforts, is the first of several as the auto marketer reaches out more to diverse consumers.

Barry Cooper, CEO of Tribune Co.'s BlackVoices, said GM is the first of the site's strategic partners.


"The real significance here is this is one of the few times a major Fortune 500 company has validated African-Americans online," said Mr. Cooper, claiming this is "the richest [online African-American] contract ever."

Mr. Cooper and his 40-member staff will be busy in the next 90 days creating new areas of BlackVoices, which GM will sponsor. They include: "Spotlight on Excellence" to showcase professional and community black leaders; "Sports Channel" to cover athletics of historically black colleges; and "Centerpiece," to handle community topics. GM is the exclusive sponsor of "Auto Corner," a new area that will offer car-buying and maintenance advice, as well as live, online chats with GM engineers and executives.

GM will post its job openings in the site's Career Center area.

For GM, the deal will extend awareness of its products and services with African-Americans and help build relationships with that community, said Tyrone Jordan, director of new business development in North America for the carmaker's online unit, e-gm.

"This is the first time we've reached out and built this type of relationship online," he said. "There will be others to come."

The deal is more extensive than GM's past efforts of banner ads on African-American sites, he said. It includes scholarships, offline events, sponsorships and ads in the site's quarterly BVQ magazine. The appropriate GM ad agency would handle print ads by brand.

African-Americans spent $9.8 billion on new cars via traditional commerce in 1999, a 51% jump from the previous year, said Ken Smikle, president of "Target Market News."

BlackVoices has more than 500,000 registered members and roughly 200,000 unique visitors monthly. The site offers free e-mail to members, plus the free posting of resumes and free chat rooms.

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