Lowest Gas Price Around? Free

Shell, Sunoco Give Away Thousands of Gallons Via Instant-Win Promotions

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Never mind winning heaps of cash in the lottery: The new currency is gasoline, and two marketers are offering consumers a chance to win lots of it.

Royal Dutch Shell Group's Shell brand will spend $30 million -- topping its measured-media spending for all of last year -- to advertise its "Million Gallon Giveaway" that starts July 31 and runs through the end of October. Six top winners get Shell gasoline for life and 200,000-plus will get $10 gift cards for gas in an instant scratch-and-win promotion.

Sunoco's "Free Fuel 5000" has a single grand prize of 10,000 gallons of its gasoline. The giveaway, which runs through August, also offers 5,000 instantly redeemable $10 gas cards.

'Pot of gold'
These promotions "are like winning a pot of gold," said Gerald Celeste, director of the Trends Research Institute. "They call gasoline black gold, so the promotions make perfect sense." He predicted non-gas-related companies, beyond automakers now offering gas deals, will also jump into the arena, offering free gasoline and maybe even a year of free home-heating fuel.

The gasoline marketers' promotions come in the wake of last week's warning by Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal that global oil prices could as much as triple if the U.S. opts for a military action against Iran. Fluctuating gas prices have crimped sales of big sport utilities.

Some SUV owners have been so anxious to get from under their hefty monthly payments and gas bills in Florida that they hired an arsonist to torch their vehicles through an undisclosed car dealership in a sting operation uncovered by local authorities, according to auto information site Edmunds.com.

Two goals
Shell's goals are two-fold, said Karen Wildman, brand and communications manager. The marketer wants to educate people that all gasolines aren't the same -- Shell exceeds government standards for cleaning agents in its gas, she said -- as well as generate additional traffic at its 13,000 stations nationwide.

Shell tested several other promotions with consumers, including free music downloads, but in the end decided to stick to its core product, Ms. Wildman said. The Marketing Store, Chicago, developed the promotion.

JWT, Houston, created TV, radio and point-of-purchase materials for the promotion, while WPP Group sibling MediaCom, New York, handled media. A 15-second TV and radio spot for the promotion breaks nationally on broadcast and cable networks July 31. It will use the same pole-vaulter image being used in TV and magazine ads that touts Shell's fuel standards.

Substantial push
The push is substantial, considering that TNS Media Intelligence figures show that Shell spent only $162,000 in measured media for its gasoline in the first quarter and nearly $22 million in 2005.

To enter Sunoco's contest, 3,900 participating stations are giving away branded decals to be placed on vehicle bumpers that are identical to the marketer's stickers on Nascar cars. Drivers become eligible when seen by spotters at or near Sunoco stations.

Sunoco, the official fuel of Nascar, is advertising the promo on national TV networks and cable's Speed Channel during races, as well as on national and spot radio, said Jennifer Ostrich, account director at its agency, SFGT, Philadelphia.

Brand loyalty
She said the offer has two goals: to drive traffic to 3,900 participating Sunoco stations and to create brand loyalty, because the chances of winning increase with more visits. The advertiser "is looking to create habitual behavior to reinforce its partnership with Nascar."

Sunoco, which mainly operates in the eastern U.S., spent $1.1 million in measured media in the first quarter of 2006 and $3.4 million in 2005, according to TNS.

Neither Shell's nor Sunoco's promotions are available in New Jersey, Maryland or Virginia, due to state laws.
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