GM ties Olympics ads to team sponsorships

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General Motors Corp. and its vehicle brands are gearing up for the U.S. Olympics.

GM is the exclusive domestic car and truck sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team through 2008 -- a privilege it paid an estimated $300 million for in 1997. Three years ago GM inked an estimated $600 million contract with NBC that makes it the exclusive domestic car and truck advertiser during the network's Olympic broadcasts.

The auto marketer will give away one of its vehicles every night in a promotion with NBC, according to two managers close to GM. The company didn't return phone calls seeking comment at press time.

As part of its deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee, GM also sponsors 37 national governing bodies of the U.S. teams, which it uses for more grassroots promotions. GM's Cadillac Division, for example, sponsored five qualifying swim meets for Olympic hopefuls earlier this year.


The brand will tie its sponsorship of the U.S. swim team to an integrated ad campaign with an online sweepstakes during the Games, said Fred Teach, brand promotional manager at the auto marketer.

A sole TV spot from the Troy, Mich., office of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles arrives Sept. 4; it also will air during the Games. Print breaks Sept. 11 in Sports Illustrated and USA Today. Banner ads for the promotion and links to Cadillac's Web site will appear on and


The ads direct traffic to, where visitors can enter a contest to win a 2001 DeVille DTS sedan, the grand prize, or lesser prizes from other Olympic sponsors, such as a ThinkPad laptop from IBM Corp. and digital cameras from Eastman Kodak Co. Entrants in the "Test of the Best" must pick the winner of an Oct. 1 online virtual race between images of five former Olympic stars, including Mark Spitz, Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weissmuller. The race will use vintage footage of the swimming greats.

SCA Promotions, Dallas, handled the statistical analysis of the swimmers to determine the winner. EDS Corp., a GM spinoff, will run the site and capture entrants' names as Cadillac prospects.

Cadillac will air 11 30-second spots during the two-week broadcast, said Paul Edwards, an ad manager at the division.

The sole dedicated D'Arcy spot shows five silver DeVilles racing on Utah's Salt Flats, each with a license plate bearing the name of one of the former Olympic swimming greats. The cars "flip" under the sand when they turn, like swimmers, and the sand transforms into a pool.

"We're trying to find a different way to reach our audience," Mr. Edwards said.


GM's Buick Division breaks a new TV spot Aug. 28 with brand spokesman Tiger Woods promoting the Olympic-edition Regal sedan. The spot, from the Troy, Mich., office of McCann-Erickson Worldwide, will air during the Olympic Games.

The golf great was ordered to appear before the striking Screen Actors Guild board after filming the spot in late July in Toronto. But Mr. Woods did not appear before SAG leaders, telling USA Today via his agent he's an athlete, not an actor.

The spot shows the golfer trying to qualify for several Olympic sports using his clubs. In the javelin contest, he throws his club. The judges disapprove of his sporting attempt, but Mr. Woods manages to drive off in a gold Regal.

A print push for a test-drive promotion, also with Mr. Woods, arrives in early September.

Oldsmobile will continue to promote its redesigned Aurora during the Games with existing creative from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, said Teresa Meehan, marketing communications manager. The brand sponsors the men's and women's U.S. volleyball teams and provided the $200,000 prize money for each winning men's and women's teams at three qualifying events earlier this year.


During Olympic TV broadcasts, Pontiac will use a redone Grand Prix spot from the 1996 Olympics showing a long jumper trying to leap over the car, said a D'Arcy spokesman. The brand also will run a spot that broke earlier this year showing Montana minivans etching the Olympic rings in a field. A Pontiac Grand Am drives through steel Olympic rings in its spot.

The actors strike had no impact on the Montana and Grand Am commercials because they were done before the strike, the spokesman said.


Chevrolet will break two new commercials during the Games -- one for cars, the other for trucks -- a spokesman said. The tag for the spots from Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., is "Chevrolet. The one the U.S. Olympic team depends on."

Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, is working on new Saturn creative that will debut during the games. A spokesman said there are new executions for the L series, S series and Saturn brand.

Members of the striking actors guild protested filming at a Saturn location in California by blowing bubbles to disrupt the shoot for several of the new spots.

The GMC truck brand has planned no new dedicated Olympic commercials from Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, New York. GMC trucks earlier this year broke a commercial featuring U.S. Olympic runner Marion Jones from its African-American agency, Wimbley Group, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

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