Detroit automakers get back into Super Bowl game

By Mike Hudson, The Detroit News

For the first time in more than a decade, all three Detroit automakers will have a significant presence during the Super Bowl broadcast, spending millions for advertising time and other promotions during the world’s biggest marketing bonanza.

The Super Bowl offers a rare and pricey chance to reach 130 million viewers in the United States and 1 billion worldwide.

Advertisers further benefit from the postgame buzz as marketing experts and couch potatoes spend a couple days debating the best and worst commercials.

Ford Motor is sponsoring the pregame show on CBS and buying time for two ads that will be broadcast before kickoff — a 30-second spot and a 60-second spot — featuring its 500-hp $140,000 Ford GT super car.

General Motors is digging deep for prime Super Bowl exposure this year, buying up two 60-second ads for its Chevrolet and Cadillac brands at a cost of more than $4 million each.

GM also will run ads immediately after the game. Cadillac will specifically sponsor the postgame show, the most valuable player trophy and the two-minute warning and will give away vehicles to top-performing players.

DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group, still smarting from an aborted attempt to host a pay-per-view “Lingerie Bowl” at half-time, will run a 30-second Dodge ad during the first quarter of the game.

“This year is a very important year because we’re showing that the domestic auto industry is a force to be reckoned with on the largest stage there is in advertising,” said Michael Bernacchi, marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy.

“They are saying, ‘We’re getting ready to be a dominant force again.’ ”

Cable television, digital recorders and fickle viewership trends have made the Super Bowl’s massive audience more valuable than ever in the past five years.

The game guarantees a rapt audience, especially among young men, a key consumer demographic for automakers.

And with women making up 46% of the game’s audience, advertisers can appeal to nearly any market they please.

“You’ve got viewers going in a hundred different directions in television. But with this game, you know you’ll get them all,” said John Antil, a marketing professor at the University of Delaware. “This is the one place where the mass audience still is every year.”

GM’s huge ad buy this year places the automaker third among all advertisers for the Super Bowl, spending a total of about $9 million.

Only Pepsi, with $13.5 million, and Anheuser-Busch, with $22.5 million, are spending more. There are typically 59 to 61 slots for 30-second commercials per Super Bowl.

It promises to be a solid year for advertising overall, analysts say, with CBS charging about 5% more per 30-second spot than last year. This year’s rate is estimated to be $2.25 million for 30 seconds, according to Advertising Age magazine.

If a company’s ad resonates with an audience, that money is well spent, analysts say. The Super Bowl boasts viewers worldwide who are more attuned than normal viewers to watching the commercials.

Another important marketing segment is behind the scenes, where companies sponsor games, parties and information booths for those in attendance — usually high-income business people and celebrities who enjoy spending their cash.

GM will provide 400 Cadillacs for use by the National Football League to transport officials and workers in Houston. The company will sponsor a celebrity go-cart race that last year featured stars like Ashton Kutcher.

Contributing: Detroit News Staff Writers Eric Mayne and Brett Clanton