By Barry Janoff
February 10, 2014: BMW, Volkswagen, Acura, Fiat (under the wings of Chrysler Group) and General Motors via Chevrolet, Cadillac and other brands lead a group of automakers that are driving headlong into marketing to reach consumers during the Winter Olympics and then immediately there after March Madness.
Automakers around the world happily jumped into the two-week Olympics ad competition. It gives them more time to display their wares and creative chops than the Super Bowl, which is a one-day Madison Avenue extravaganza, albeit one with 112.2 million viewers that has become a thriving social media industry via ads and teasers released pre-game on YouTube.
Broadcast partner NBC is expected to pull in a Winter Games record $! billion in ad revenue — topping the $852.1 million during the 2006 Winter Games in Torino. The network has charged an average of close to $100,000 for a 30-second spot, according to industry analysts, although companies that purchase multiple spots generally get a discount.
The biggest chunk of ad sales is coming from the automotive category, again expected to set a new Winter Games record by topping the $130.8 million spent during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, according to marketing and research firm Kantar Media, New York. Kantar Media estimates that NBC will have as much as 5,500 minutes of commercial time on TV alone.
Volkswagen is the national automotive partner in Russia with the International Olympic Committee. The carmaker has supplied more than 3,000 Volkswagen, Audi, and Skoda vehicles to the Games, for use by athletes and official.
The company also has a showroom in the Olympic Village, and has designed a special-edition Polar Expedition Amarok, which it built a year ago to promote the event in Russia. All supported by TV to air during the Olympics.
BMW of America is in Sochi as the official mobility partner of the U.S. Olympic Committee, which comes with on-site activations, a bevy of TV spots and digital marketing targeting both U.S. and international consumers.
The focus will be on BMW i3, an all-electric vehicle made primarily of carbon fiber, and the BMW i8, a plug-in hybrid, high-performance electric vehicle. Bot are scheduled to hit U.S.car dealers in the second quarter of 2014.
"It is a rare and exciting opportunity to launch a new brand and for BMW i, one that requires a world-stage," Trudy Hardy, vp-marketing for BMW of North America, said in a statement. "We look forward to making a bold statement about the future of sustainable mobility."
It is Chevrolet, however, that seems to have taken the most NBC ad parking spaces. The carmaker has some 11 TV spots planned to blitz U.S. audiences, ranging from overarching company messages to car-specific ads that the company said would air upward of 400 times, from the Opening Ceremony through the end of the Games on Feb. 23.
The strategy is being driven by Tim Mahoney, CMO at Chevrolet, who joined the company in April from Volkswagen of America. The creative includes scenarios that openly support the LGBT community, which has been a focus of global attention due to the strict laws against them in host Russia.
"Perhaps more than any other event, the Winter Games represents the global values that unite us," Mahoney said in a statement. "In this context, we saw an opportunity to extend the 'Find New Roads' story by showing how Chevrolet is helping consumers try new things and break new ground."
Other car companies also are not underestimating the attention that the Olympic Games attract worldwide.
"We have done tremendous job to make this happen, and we are proud with our company’s contribution to one of the most significant events in the recent Russian history," Marcus Osegowitsch, general director for Volkswagen Group Russia, said during a media event in Sochi. "Our showcase in Sochi is located right at the heart of the Games and is intended to promote the celebration spirit both for the visitors and for those who have been unable to come to Sochi. To do so, we have arranged numerous ways to broadcast information."
Acura is targeting viewers during the Olympics but is also looking ahead to the high-profile NCAA Div. I Men's Basketball Tournament, aka "March Madness."
"We're moving to sharpen our focus on Acura's two incredible new sedans and on the NSX super-car as the ultimate expression of Acura performance," Michael Accavitti, svp for Acura's parent company, American Honda Motor, said in a statement. "We think sports programming provides us with a great context to showcase the incredible athleticism of these new Acura vehicles and the competitive spirit of the Acura brand."
Also warming up their March Madness engines are Buick and Infiniti, which have official status with the NCAA.
If nothing else, car companies are driving a road filled with many potential car buyers. NBC attracted an average of 20.2 million on Thursday during pre-Opening Ceremony events, 31.7 million for the Opening Ceremony on Friday and more than 25 million viewers on Saturday night, according to the network. (Sunday numbers were still to come.)
The numbers for NBC are mirroring the words of Arthur C. Clarke, inventor, futurist and author, quoted from 1964 in the new "Hello Future" spot for BMW, "The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic."
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