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Eight Car Brands Compete for Super Bowl Glory

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author photo by Autotrader January 2011

Eight carmakers will be advertising in Super Bowl XLV on Fox, buying 20, thirty-seconds ad slots during the big game. The 2011 broadcast on Feb. 6 will have the most, national, in-game auto ads than any prior Super Bowl,with car brands representing almost a third of all the ad slots.

At least three of the auto advertisers also have significant social-media programs to try to engage consumers before and after the Super Bowl to extend the reach of their pricey television buy. Fox was asking between $2.8 million and $3 million for a 30-second ad. Last year’s game tallied 100-million-plus viewers.

Industry expert Charlie Hughes, former chief of Mazda and Land Rover in North America, said that many automakers in the Big Game is a positive indicator that the business is improving after two tough years. “It lets them put some big poker chips on the table.”

But Hughes, an industry consultant and co-author of a book on automotive branding, cautioned of a potential dark side. “When eight car companies advertise in the same broadcast, you could end up with maybe two incredible commercials and the rest could look pedestrian. You risk spending a lot of money to be second best.”

Audi, Chrysler Group, Kia and Hyundai are all back again this year.

This is Mercedes-Benz USA’s first-ever appearance. Steve Cannon, vice president of marketing, explained the move, saying “for us it represents an improving economy. We’ve gone from head winds to having a slight breeze on our back.”

Mercedes will have a 30-second teaser commercial in the pre-game broadcast and a full minute brand commercial in the fourth quarter showing off four new models.

The event marks the return of General Motors, which hasn’t advertised in the Super Bowl since 2008- for GMC. This year though, it’s all about Chevrolet, its volume brand, which hasn’t been in the game since 2007.

Chevy is making a big play with five, 30-second ads in the game, plus one in the post-game, when it will present the MVP with a car, followed by a big product integration in the popular show “Glee,” which follows the game on Fox.

Chevy, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, will launch a new mobile site and re-launch Chevrolet.com the day before the game with a new look and functionality, said Kevin Mayer, advertising director of the brand.

BMW is returning for the first time in a decade because, said Dan Creed, vice president of marketing “we mean business this year.”

He declined to tell AutoTrader.com how much ad time BMW bought or which models, only “that the advertising will introduce two core messages that we’ll communicate across 2011.”

German upmarket brands’ BMW and Mercedes will be joined by Audi, making its fourth consecutive appearance with a minute commercial in the first quarter for its A8 sedan.

Audi’s Chief Marketing Officer Scott Keogh said the brand is back because the Super Bowl has worked to improve brand opinion and purchase consideration. “For a few years, through these economic times we have increased our ad budget and we are building real demand for our products, not incentivizing demand.”

Keogh said the ad buy is part of Audi’s new “Own Sunday Strategy,” since the brand’s target consumes the most media that day, whether offline or online.  

All three German luxury brands have big social media programs tied to the Super Bowl.

Mercedes-Benz is promoting the “Tweet Race,” which Cannon said features “four teams, four markets and four products.” The marketer is promoting it on Facebook,Twitter and YouTube.

Four, two-person teams start driving a 2011 Mercedes Feb. 2 from dealerships in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Tampa to try to be the first to reach Dallas for the game. Each will be fueled by Tweets from consumers, who can win a trip for playing at home.

Cannon said the brand has “dabbled in social media in the past year. “You can’t learn from the sidelines,” he told AutoTrader.com. “The only way is to dive in and make a significant move.”

BMW is giving away a lease on the undisclosed model in its Super Bowl ad via a Facebook app called Matchup. People need to determine which model, which color and other features are on the car in the Super Bowl ad. BMW bought ads on Facebook and is also promoting it on Twitter and blogs, said Trudy Hardy, manager-marketing communications. The contest will continue a week after the game to encourage people to improve their guesses and keep coming back, she said. “We’re harnessing the power of Facebook leading up to the game and tying back into the commercial itself.”

Audi is still deciding on prizes for the satirical estate sale it is hosting on Facebook, although Twitter and YouTube are also playing a role to generate buzz, said Loren Angelo, brand marketing manager. “In an estate sale, people are parting with things of the past,” he said.  Audi wants consumers “to chose how luxury has progressed and the premise of past vs. future,” he said.

Hyundai Motor America is returning as a Super Bowl advertiser for the fourth straight year and this year will have a trio of 20-second spots to launch the new Elantra.

Kia Motors America is back for its sophomore year and is launching the newest-generation Optima mid-size sedan with a minute-long commercial.

Kia’s Vice President Marketing Michael Sprague told AutoTrader.com that buyers in that segment “are very rational, but they want an emotional connection.” That’s why the commercial will be fun and entertaining, he said. “We’re at the point where we want people to talk about it.”

Volkswagen, which returned to the Super Bowl in 2010 after a nine-year break, will have a pair of 30-second commercials, but it isn’t revealing which models.

Chrysler Group is also back this year, but is staying mum on which model and other details. Last year the automaker advertised the Dodge Charger.

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Eight Car Brands Compete for Super Bowl Glory - Autotrader