GM Extends Tentpole Strategy with The X Factor Deal


A bigger brand story demands a bigger audience and a bigger canvas.

General Motors has been returning its advertising to mega-stage “tent-pole” broadcast “events” like the Super Bowl and NCAA March Madness over the last several months as CMO Joel Ewanick works his strategy for re-energizing the company’s remaining Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC brands.

And now GM has opted for yet another big-marketing gambit: a major sponsorship of The X Factor, Simon Cowell’s American Idol competitor that will begin airing on FOX this fall.[more]

GM’s agreement was the icing on the proverbial cake of FOX’s reportedly successful upfront period that saw the network secure commitments of almost $2 billion for this fall versus a reported promise of $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion a year earlier.

In hindsight, it might have been inevitable that GM fell in with the singing-competition property that Fox and Cowell hope will become the next Idol. Ford is the only automotive sponsor of the highly successful Idol franchise and is, along with Coca-Cola and AT&T, one of only three uber brand sponsors of the show. As such, not only does Ford dominate car advertising on the show but it also takes advantage of plenty of product-placement opportunities, from special “music videos” produced and aired for several weeks in a row, each starring the remaining Idol contestants, to giveaways of its cars on the show finale.

Post-bailout GM has been trying to make sure the fledgling automotive recovery doesn’t leave it behind as Ford, which didn’t take a federal bailout, did a good job during the recession of positioning itself for future growth. Both companies have well-accepted new products, aggressive campaigns to gain “conquest” sales from other brands, and a determination not to go overboard with incentives. But, arguably, Ford still has more momentum.

One big difference between the two deals is that GM will not be a season-long top-tier sponsor of The X Factor. That distinction belongs alone, in all categories, to Pepsi, which announced its X Factor USA deal in January and has been sponsoring local auditions in Dallas (below) and beyond.

But these are the kinds of major franchise partnerships that GM’s Ewanick likes, so expect GM to pull out all the stops to help make X Factor  a real factor.