At the Super Bowl, carmakers are back in the game

Read More at: Reuters

Next month’s National Football League championship game, which actually takes place just outside Dallas, Texas, features advertising campaigns from no less than eight major car companies. Some have bought more than one spot for the February 6 game on News Corp’s Fox Broadcasting, the year’s biggest U.S. media event.

“Any way you cut it, it’s an auto extravaganza,” said George Cook, a professor at University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business and a former Ford Motor Co executive. “It’s about assuring the American car buyer that the industry has returned. It’s about winning back trust.”

In advertising circles, where the struggles of carmakers have been deeply felt, the hope is that this signals a better 2011. General Motors Co, a major client, sat out the last two Super Bowls as part of deep cutbacks in its marketing budget. Now it is back with five spots.

“We think it’s a great opportunity given where we’ve been, how competitive the market is right now,” said Joel Ewanick, GM’s global chief marketing officer. “We wanted to start the new year very strong, very aggressive.”
Overall, carmakers should account for roughly twice as much commercial time as they did in 2010’s Super Bowl. It’s a jump that reflects the improving fortunes of the U.S. auto industry, which snapped a four-year sales decline in 2010. The recovery is gradual in the United States, yet most analysts now expect double-digit auto sales growth in 2011.

The Super Bowl is a chance for the industry to make its pitch to about 95 million viewers, most of whom will watch the game live, a rarity in the age of digital video recorders.

As a result, roughly a quarter of all the commercial time will be taken up by carmakers including GM, Chrysler Group LLC, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai Motor Co, its affiliate Kia Motors Corp, Volkswagen AG and its Audi unit, are expected to be among the advertisers.