Special Report: TV sponsorship & value-added promos: Effort of sponsorship pays off for Dodge Stratus

The straight media buy is still an efficient way of reaching a large number of viewers, but it is not necessarily effective in enhancing a company's image or targeting an audience.Properly conceived and executed television sponsorships and value-added promotions can be...

The straight media buy is still an efficient way of reaching a large number of viewers, but it is not necessarily effective in enhancing a company’s image or targeting an audience.

Properly conceived and executed television sponsorships and value-added promotions can be a much more efficient way of achieving those goals, but they are simply not as easy to orchestrate as a simple media buy.

These initiatives demand not only a substantial investment, but a new level of creativity and co-operation as well.

A good example of the effort and the rewards of sponsorships was last month’s launch on cbc television of the new Dodge Stratus, a mid-priced car Chrysler Canada hopes will take a chunk out of the import market.

In December, Chrysler went to the cbc looking for a sponsorship opportunity that would fit with the new car.

At that time, a special was planned to highlight the talents of Brian Orser, a former figure skating champion with a high recognition value among fans of the increasingly popular sport.

The one-hour Orser special, Blame it on the Blues, was conceived as a musical as much as a figure skating event, and seemed to fit perfectly with the Chrysler objective to target the 25- to 40-year-old market.

Gaye MacDonald, an account executive at the cbc, says the choice was obvious.

‘I knew this show was going to happen from the Arts and Entertainment division,’ MacDonald says. ‘I kept it in my notes, and when Chrysler said they were looking for something, I asked specifically about that show.’

Chrysler was certainly interested, but the timing of the Stratus launch meant MacDonald had to scramble to have the Orser special rescheduled for earlier in the year than the originally planned March air date.

‘We are a unit that believes a lot in integrated marketing, and have been making inroads with a lot of clients to do programs of this type,’ says Rod Macivor, sales promotion consultant at the cbc.

‘With Chrysler, and their agency [bbdo,] we had such a good fit it was a chance to turn this around quickly,’ Macivor says.

Peter Barone, Chrysler’s national advertising manager, says the timing of the Orser special meant Chrysler was able to pack a one-two promotional punch with its sponsorship of the Geminis the next week.

Barone says the Gemini show was intended to be mostly a corporate event, but ended up being another opportunity to promote the Stratus that could not be ignored.

‘When both these things came down, we saw a great opportunity,’ he says.

Blame it on the Blues aired the evening of Feb. 26 after being promoted through newspaper, TV Guide and television spots that played heavily on Chrysler’s sponsorship and promoted an Ontario-wide contest offering the as-yet unveiled car as first prize.

In five- 15- and 30-second tv promos Orser shared the ice with the covered car, and plugged both his special and the contest.

Players were asked to register for the contest through a 1-900 number, or with a mail-in registration form that came from the newspaper ad.

To win the contest the players had to be watching the show, and paying attention to the commercials in order to hear the response to the question ‘What is the Dodge Stratus the cure for?’

The answer, ‘Performance anxiety,’ completed the tagline that was to be used in subsequent advertising for the new car.

The contest showed Chrysler’s involvement to be more than a gratuitous sponsorship.

‘We didn’t want to be too intrusive,’ Barone says. ‘Our aim was to blend into the program, which, I think, we did a good job of.’

The audience average for the special was more than one million, almost one-third of which was in the women’s 25-54 category.

Chrysler was billed as presenting sponsor, and given the first spots during the show to unveil the Stratus, and the advertising creative.

MacDonald says the process of planning the event with the client, its agency and the network sitting together at a table could have been difficult, but all the parties knew they had to move quickly.

‘The timing was phenomenally tight, as these things can be,’ she says. ‘We had to know we had the people who could do everything sitting around one table.’

MacDonald says this approach helped them avoid the problems associated with having a number of departments from an agency coming to the table with their own ideas, and inflated budget expectations.

‘There was no time to pontificate on where money should be spent,’ she says.

Macivor concurs the lack of time worked in their favor.

‘In this case, it was everyone developing it from ground zero,’ he says. ‘That made it easier to make decisions.’

Both MacDonald and Macivor were impressed with the way bbdo and Chrysler worked together on this type of project, citing the Chrysler Team at the agency, and an agency person on-site at Chrysler as big reasons the automaker was able to work so quickly with the cbc to pull Blame it on the Blues together.

Barone, who feels the Orser promotion and the Gemini awards ‘have done wonders for Chrysler’s image,’ says his company’s interest in sponsorship is growing, but will be reserved for the most part for special events such as launches.

‘We’re trying to be smarter with it,’ he says. ‘It’s got to be the right fit, and timing is critical.’

Barone says if he was doing it again, and he will, he would put more resources into developing greater consumer awareness.

‘We really need to self-promote, especially when you’re in the launch month,’ he says. ‘You want to get that high impact right off the bat.’