Superads: With game in Motor City, carmakers go for TV blitz

The Detroit News

It’s the Cadillac of football games — and Cadillac doesn’t want anyone to forget it.

General Motors’ luxury brand is sparing no expense on a barrage of sponsorships and ads in hopes that viewers will associate Super Bowl XL with its wreath-and-crest logo more than the blue ovals atop the stadium where it’s being played.

Cadillac bought one minute of second-quarter ad time to promote its new 2007 Escalade and will drive an Escalade onto the Ford Field turf as the Super Bowl MVP is honored during the Cadillac-sponsored post-game show.

It’s dispersing 675 Cadillacs around downtown Detroit for use by National Football League officials, team executives and other VIPs. On a building along Woodward near Grand Circus Park, it’s hanging a seven-story Escalade banner surrounded by “paparazzi” mannequins with glittering flash bulbs.

“Everywhere you look, you’ll see a Cadillac,” said Jim Taylor, the brand’s general manager.

That is, unless you see a Ford or a Toyota first. With the Super Bowl coming to the Motor City, automakers are pulling out all the stops to burnish their brands before a worldwide audience.

Ford Motor Co. isn’t spending as much as GM, but it’s planning a marketing blitz of its own to make the most of its namesake venue hosting an event watched by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.

Ford will air a 30-second ad at some point during the Feb. 5 game, although it won’t reveal when it’s scheduled or which vehicle it highlights. But perhaps more importantly, Ford’s name will undoubtedly be mentioned dozens of times during ABC’s broadcast, and any aerial shots will show the huge blue-oval logos on the stadium’s roof.

“We made our biggest investment when we signed up for the naming rights for Ford Field,” said Ford spokesman Jim Cain. “People will be hard-pressed to match our presence.”

All of Detroit’s Big Three automakers will be vying for the attention of the 100,000 people expected to descend on downtown in the days leading up to the game.

During the Motown Winter Blast, Ford is taking over Campus Martius Park with a tent for family-friendly activities and offering rides on a fleet of Model Ts. Nearby, DaimlerChrysler AG is sponsoring the Taste of Detroit food festival and entertainment on the Chrysler Jeep Dodge R&B/Jazz Stage.

Of course, anyone who glances up at the city’s skyline will see Cadillac’s logo on a 24,748-square-foot wrap plastered on the windows of GM’s Renaissance Center headquarters.

Having the Super Bowl in Detroit gives Michigan’s struggling automakers a unique marketing opportunity at a critical juncture.

Just as Metro Detroiters are hoping the game will provide a much-needed boost to the city, the image that automakers project to visitors and viewers could be an invaluable aid in their turnaround efforts.

GM is counting on the Cadillac Escalade, which goes on sale several weeks after the game, to be a large part of that endeavor. The commercial it’s airing features an Escalade, a favorite among hip-hop artists and movie stars, rising on the runway during a glitzy fashion show from a pool of liquid chrome.

Cadillac’s ad agency, Leo Burnett Detroit, built a 100-foot-long runway and hired Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen, models Rachel Hunter and Vida Guerra and 125 Hollywood extras.

GM is paying an estimated $5 million to show the spot during the game, with ABC charging an estimated $2.5 million for every 30 seconds of ad time. GM also plans to air a 30-second commercial for Pontiac during the game and several spots for the revamped 2007 GMC Yukon but won’t divulge any details.

Only two companies, perennial Super Bowl advertisers Anheuser Busch and Pepsi, will spend more than GM on commercial time. Counting Cadillac’s sponsorship of the post-game show, MVP trophy and other aspects of the event, University of Detroit marketing professor Mike Bernacchi estimates GM is shelling out between $20 million and $25 million within a span of only a few hours.

Still, it might not be enough to overcome the advantage that the mere name of Ford Field gives GM’s biggest local competitor. Ford bought naming rights to the stadium through 2042 for $40 million.

“But GM is there in full force with shoulder pads and knee pads, ready to kick as much butt as they can on Ford’s home field,” Bernacchi said.

Ford did hold back somewhat from past years by not reprising its role as sponsor of the Super Bowl pregame show.

Chrysler Group, for the second consecutive year, isn’t airing any ads during the game. However, Bernacchi said he would be surprised if the Auburn Hills-based automaker doesn’t air several 30-second spots during the pregame show at a cost of around $1 million each.

Even though the game is in Detroit, foreign automakers aren’t letting the Big Three have center stage to themselves. Back for the second consecutive year is Toyota, which has created the first-ever bilingual Super Bowl commercial to promote the 2007 Camry.

In the 30-second spot, a Hispanic father is driving his young son in their new hybrid Toyota Camry. When the father explains how the hybrid car switches between gas and electric power, the son compares it to the way his father can switch between English and Spanish.

“Because I’m always thinking of your future,” the father says, explaining why he learned English — and why he bought a hybrid.

Ed Erhardt, president of sales for ABC/ESPN, said the game’s location in Detroit has generated more interest from automakers, both foreign and domestic, than in past years. He wouldn’t say which automakers have bought ad time this year other than the ones that have publicly announced plans.

“The automotive companies recognize the power of what the Super Bowl is,” Erhardt said. “There are very few places that you can get so many people in one place that tune in for just the ads.”

Automakers have created some of the more memorable ads in recent years. In 2004, Honda touted its Pilot sport utility vehicle as perfect for a man raised by wolves and Chevrolet showed numerous children having their mouths washed out by soap after expressing their amazement toward the SSR.

Last year, Ford introduced its redesigned Mustang by showing a driver frozen in his seat because he couldn’t resist taking it for a spin with the top down in below-zero temperatures.

Last year’s Super Bowl featured several spots for Cadillac, Ford trucks, the Volvo XC90, the Toyota Prius and Honda’s Ridgeline pickup.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. You can reach Nick Bunkley at (313) 222-2293 or