ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
We're back with All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook. General Motors is struggling to survive, and the carmaker's troubles are having an impact on the strangest places, like the golf course. This week, GM pulled out of a multi-million-dollar endorsement deal with Tiger Woods.
And then there's the football field, where GM has been the biggest sponsor of the NFL for years. Well, no more. The car maker won't buy a single Super Bowl ad, and it's cutting ad spending for the rest of the NFL season, too. As NPR's Mike Pesca reports now, that's a tough hit for the company and for the league.
MIKE PESCA: The Super Bowl is sort of the Super Bowl of advertising. For about three million dollars, a company can rivet almost a third of the nation's attention for 30 seconds. It sounds like a high price tag, but the symbolism of a Super Bowl commercial goes well beyond the hard sell itself. This year, long-time Super Bowl advertiser GM looked at its showrooms, looked at the balance sheet, looked at the asking price, and opted out. Peter Ternes is director of communications for GM's Sales, Service, and Marketing.
Mr. PETER TERNES (Director of Communications, for Sales, Service, and Marketing, General Motors): It happens that we don't have vehicles to launch at that time, so it makes sense for us to just not launch any ad during the Super Bowl.
PESCA: This is a contrast from 2007, when GM bought a minute, not to launch a particular vehicle, but to celebrate a notable brand through song.
(Soundbite 2007 GM ad)
Ms. MARY J. BLIGE: (Singing) I'll go buy you a Chevrolet, if you give me some of your love.
Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Holdin' hands and skimmin' stones.
PESCA: It was a reminder of Chevy's place in American culture. This year, GM's silence is saying the same thing. But that's just Super Bowl ads. The Super Bowl MVP will still win a Cadillac. Every week, NFL fans will get to know the GMC Defensive Player of the Week. That's GMC, official brand of Monday Night Football, as opposed to GM-owned Chevrolet, which is the official brand of Sunday Night Football.
Indeed, the NFL is seen as one of the very best environments to advertise in. Steve Lanzano, head of the ad services company MPG, says the problem is the companies have less money to spend.
Mr. STEVE LANZANO (COO, MPG): Question is how many marketers are going to be there, and what's going to happen with demand. And it's starting to wane a little bit. It's what dollars are there. I mean, you see retail and financial on automotive are cutting back - cutting back really dramatically.
PESCA: The NFL's declining ad revenue was confirmed by league commissioner Roger Goodell a month ago. But he also said that advertisers would continue to value the NFL as a premier advertising destination. That's why some companies, rather than buying fewer ads, are saving money on production costs. GM is using that tactic in its overall 20 percent reduction in advertising costs, says Peter Ternes.
Mr. TERNES: Maybe not do three commercials, but do two commercials and not have to pay for a production crew and writing and scripting and photography and vehicle usage and all those things that you would do for a third commercial.
PESCA: That could be the reason why one particular commercial has blanketed NFL broadcasts like the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense.
(Soundbite of ad)
Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Saved by zero...
PESCA: That one Toyota ad has been played so often during NFL games that it has inspired over 20 Facebook groups with 10,000 users dedicated to its demise. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is not one of them. Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.
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