By Published on .

General Motors Corp. has devised a new system to leverage the marketing impact of its sponsorship deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

With it, the auto giant expects to improve its previous low level of consumer awareness for its sponsorship of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team and Summer Games in Atlanta.

The plan is based on an internal study of consumers, and from it GM has selected car brands that will get the most ad support keyed to a specific sport.


GM paid an estimated $300 million to be the official domestic car and truck sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team through the 2008 Games, and an estimated $600 million for domestic auto exclusivity on NBC's coverage through that year.

In addition to its brand tie-ins, GM plans a major Olympic effort tied to its key manufacturing union, the United Auto Workers. No details were available at press time, but during its '96 sponsorship, GM produced several commercials featuring UAW members and staged an Olympics tour of 120 facilities in 13 states to create employee enthusiasm.

One executive close to GM who requested anonymity said the marketer had too many vehicle brands involved in Atlanta, which confused consumers and resulted in low awareness of the company's involvement.

"Awareness is key because consumers who recognize you as an Olympic sponsor have a higher consideration of your brand," the executive said.


A plus for GM: There will be only one other auto sponsor for the 2000 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, fewer than for Atlanta, according to Gordon Kane, director-marketing and brand development for the USOC. He declined to name the other marketer.

Phil Guarascio, general manager, group VP-marketing and advertising for GM in North America, declined to comment for this story. But in a recent speech at an International Events Group conference, he explained how GM's proprietary sports and entertainment tracking poll, called SEP, helped determine which sports best matched the company's car and truck consumers.

GM's SEP studied Olympics audiences by dividing each of the marketer's sponsored U.S. Olympic teams into three segments: TV viewers of a sport, attendees, and participants and their families.

"The demographics and character set of these segments are not homogeneous; they shift from bucket to bucket," said Mr. Guarascio.


Based on the study, GM has picked 10 premier or "gold medal brands," which will get the most ad spending because those vehicles would benefit most from viewership of a particular sport.

Several Olympics sports will be tied to more than one GM vehicle. Also, the vehicles will get Olympics-tied ad support during non-Game years as a bridge to Olympic years.

For example, Pontiac Grand Am will be the official car of the U.S. Gymnastic Team because SEP found it would benefit most from gymnastics' viewership. The Pontiac Grand Prix will be the official car of the U.S. Track & Field Team.

Pontiac's Montana minivan, better suited to families of gymnasts, will be displayed at local events, plus at Olympics events.


Chevrolet is the largest sponsor of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team, which covers seven skiing disciplines, said Mac Whisner, director of truck advertising and promotion at the division. Skiers are three times more likely to buy a sport-utility vehicle than non-skiers, according to the study.

Chevy also sponsors the U.S. Hockey and Ice Skating teams.

Agency Camp-bell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., has created TV spots and print ads tied to the ski team since the marketer's sponsorship started in 1995. Two 1999-model truck TV spots currently airing show members of this year's team, with the tag: "The one the U.S. Ski Team depends on."


Mr. Whisner said Chevy trucks will sponsor three new related events next ski season.

He noted that Chevy truck sales, and its image with skiers, have risen since its sponsorship started.

The scandal over the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee "really hasn't affected us," said Mr. Whisner. "Our focus is

Most Popular
In this article: