Ford, GM blitz Super Bowl with ads

They spend millions on pregame, postgame and in between, while Chrysler sits it out.

By Nick Bunkley / The Detroit News

NFL playoff ads, which also will air during the Super Bowl, hype three Cadillacs that can accelerate to 60 mph in less than five seconds, including the STS-V.

A year before the Motor City plays host to football’s biggest spectacle, two of Detroit’s Big Three automakers are giving next month’s Super Bowl broadcast an unmistakably hometown flair, spending millions to be a part of the only TV event where commercials can steal the show.

Sandwiched between the Ford Fox NFL Pregame Show and the Cadillac-sponsored postgame wrap-up is a sporting event that is as much a marketing extravaganza as it is a game. Advertisers have the opportunity to reach more than 1 billion people worldwide.

In addition to their sponsorships, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp.’s Cadillac division have snatched up commercial time at a cost of nearly $5 million a minute. Honda Motor Co. bought two 30-second ads to promote its new Ridgeline pickup.

“There has never been a Super Bowl with three automakers running at least 60 seconds of ads,” said University of Detroit Mercy marketing professor Michael Bernacchi. “This really is revving it up for next Super Bowl.”

Ford created two 60-second spots for the Feb. 6 game: a pregame ad for its pickups and one touting the new Mustang convertible that might run in the first half.

Officials aren’t revealing the visual punch line of the Mustang ad, which is based in part on the dark 1996 comedy “Fargo,” but it features a convertible with the top down at a snowy intersection.

A police officer goes to check on the driver when the car doesn’t move after the traffic light turns green.

The ad implies that the driver enjoys his Mustang so much, he’ll take it out in frigid weather. It also says that the car won’t be ready for showrooms until spring.

“To be memorable among the other Super Bowl ads, we knew we had to be very, very interesting with some unexpected twist,” said Ford Division general marketing manager Marty Collins.

“We shot the Mustang convertible spot up in a northern location on a day when the temperature was zero and the wind chill was 50 below,” Collins said.

“That’s certainly an unexpected environment for the debut of a convertible sports car.”

With at least six different car commercials running during the game, each company is hoping to make its ad stand out from the rest. Lincoln claims the ad for its new Mark LT pickup will be “edgy,” while Volvo promises a spot that’s one-of-a-kind, without providing details.

“I can say that we will do something that no one’s ever done before,” said Volvo spokesman John Maloney.

It remains to be seen how advertisers will respond to criticism surrounding several risque ads and Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at halftime last year. Experts predict most ads will be fairly tame, but a few companies might push the envelope to get more attention. The Fox network has rejected an ad for cold remedy Airborne that showed the bare backside of 84-year-old actor Mickey Rooney.

“You want your commercial to be one of the ones that’s talked about,” said Cornell University marketing professor Douglas Stayman. “So many people who watch the Super Bowl are not interested in the game.”

While Ford, GM and Honda battle for high scores in the many postgame ad rankings, DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group has chosen to sit out this year’s fray. “It’s a great medium to use if you’re looking for awareness,” said Chrysler spokeswoman Suraya Dasante. “The products that we’ve got out right now, they’re not really hurting for awareness.”

Chrysler, which makes the popular 300 sedan and Dodge Ram pickup, was at the center of a Super Bowl controversy last year over its sponsorship of a halftime Lingerie Bowl pitting scantily clad models in a game of touch football. Chrysler later pulled out of the deal under pressure from critics who labeled the company sexist.

This year, Lincoln is the automotive sponsor of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Party on the eve of the game.

Like most companies that advertise during the Super Bowl, automakers try to maximize the mileage they get from their commercials. Volvo and Cadillac have created Web sites to get viewers more involved with their vehicles.

At, consumers are invited to submit five-second films for a national contest. The contest is linked to a series of ads that Cadillac has been running during the NFL playoffs. The ads, which also will air during and after the Super Bowl, hype three Cadillacs that can accelerate to 60 mph in less than five seconds. Cadillac has created a 60-second commercial to run in the second quarter.

Automakers also will be a strong presence in host city Jacksonville, Fla.

Cadillac will provide 400 vehicles to shuttle NFL officials and important visitors. The company also will host its annual celebrity go-kart race, which last year featured Paris Hilton, Jimmy Kimmel and Ice Cube.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at (313) 222-2293 or Source: University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit News research Source: University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit News research