What a difference a year makes.
General Motors (GM), historically one of the Super Bowl’s most consistent advertisers, took a pass on advertising at the 2010 Super Bowl. While GM sat on the sidelines, carmakers like Hyundai, Kia and Honda dominated game day advertising. I suspect this wasn’t a difficult decision for GM executives at the time. In 2009, the U.S. automaker had just received a massive dose of government support, and spending millions on a Super Bowl ad would have sent the wrong signal, at least in the political world. This year, GM apparently will be back advertising on the Super Bowl. I suspect this wasn’t a difficult decision, either.
GM is in a very different place this year. The company is turning in profits, repaying government loans, working very hard to rebuild its brands and gearing up for IPO. With this new momentum, returning to the Super Bowl makes perfect sense for GM.
First, there is no bigger advertising platform. If you want to reach a large portion of the U.S. population at one time, there is nothing even close to the Super Bowl. GM wants to build its brands, and the Super Bowl is the perfect place to do it.
Second, advertising on the Super Bowl sends a signal to consumers—GM is advertising and investing. GM is confident and willing to spend money to promote good products.
Third, a Super Bowl presence sends a powerful message to investors. This is particularly important in 2011 as GM will soon be issuing stock as it recovers from bankruptcy.
GM hasn’t released its specific advertising plans for the game but here’s my advice:
- Focus on an individual brand, such as Chevrolet or Cadillac. Bundling brands may be efficient but it can produce watered-down messages.
- Engage people. Supplement the advertising with a consumer program that pulls people in. Use the Web to drive the conversation.
- Capitalize on PR. In advance of the game, aggressively seek media coverage. Use the Super Bowl advertising as a hook to talk about GM’s great products and resurgence.
In 2010 there was virtually no chance GM would be advertising on the Super Bowl. In 2011 there is virtually no chance GM will take a pass. GM has come a long way.