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GM to Rejoin Its Rivals With Super Bowl

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JUNE 7, 2010

GM to Rejoin Its Rivals With Super Bowl


In a sign that the auto industry is steering big bucks back into advertising, General Motors Co. is returning to the Super Bowl after a two-year hiatus, according to people familiar with the matter.

GM, long one of the big game's largest advertisers, will be joined by South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. and Audi, Volkswagen AG's luxury brand, on next February's broadcast of Super Bowl XLV. South Korea's Kia Motor Corp. is also on board, say people familiar with the matter.

"Big brands play in big places, and us being there shows America we are a great brand," says Chris Perry, vice president of marketing for Hyundai Motor America, which plans to air three ads during the big game—one more than last year.

GM, whose brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, sent a chill down Madison Avenue when it pulled out of the Super Bowl in 2009 as it descended into bankruptcy. It was a blow to the game: GM had appeared in 15 National Football League Championships and spent a total of $80.5 million on Super Bowl air time, according to Kantar Media, an ad tracking unit of WPP PLC.

GM, which emerged from bankruptcy court with the U.S. government as its majority owner, also sat on the bench for the 2010 Super Bowl. But its sales have increased this year, despite its decision in 2009 to shed four of its eight brands.

A U.S. Treasury representative wasn't available for comment on the company's Super Bowl plans.

The auto maker's planned return to the game comes about a month after Joel Ewanick, a former Hyundai marketing chief and believer in the value of Super Bowl ads, joined GM as vice president of U.S. marketing. Mr. Ewanick has wasted no time in putting his stamp on GM's advertising, and has already shifted its Chevy brand to a different ad agency: Omnicom Group Inc.'s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

The renewed rivalry among car makers to buy Super Bowl ad time—the priciest real estate on television—is welcome news for the media and ad business. Both were hit hard by a steep drop in the auto industry's ad spending during the recession.

Last year's U.S. spending on auto ads plummeted about 24% from a year earlier to $10.9 billion, says Kantar. In the first quarter of 2010, the industry's ad spending rose about 19% to $3 billion, with GM, Chrysler Group LLC and Toyota Motor Corp. all boosting their outlays.

Many of the car companies are "coming back spending-wise," which is "driving up the cost," says Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing for Kia Motors America.

Air time for a 30-second spot during next year's Super Bowl is fetching between $2.8 million and $3 million, well above the rates for this year's game, which ranged between $2.5 million and $2.9 million, according to marketers and ad buyers.



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