By Brian Steinberg
Thanks to a 1970s ad jingle, General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet has long been associated with baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. Now the auto marketer intends to cement that alliance further with a bold sponsorship that burnishes the national pastime.
Because Chevrolet is adding another level of ad support, Major League Baseball and Fox will start Game Three of the World Series at 6:57 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 30 — the earliest start to a World Series game since Game Six of the 1987 World Series. The start time comes an hour earlier than the scheduled start time of the 2009 World Series game on Saturday.
Critics have long complained that baseball’s post-season games last well past family-viewing time and long into the night, making it tough for kids to experience some of the great moments that take place in late innings. The trouble, of course, is that ad inventory on networks before 8 p.m. is usually significantly cheaper than that available in prime time. What’s more, such maneuvering also cuts into time typically utilized by local stations and affiliates.
The deal put into place allows Chevy to look family-friendly and gives Fox the financial security it might require. "We’ve said over the years that if advertisers were willing to support earlier starts at prime-time levels, we’d be able to begin games earlier," Eric Shanks, president-Fox Sports, said in a prepared statement.
"Starting the game earlier will allow more families to watch together," Chris Perry, VP-U.S. marketing, Chevrolet, said in a statement. "This fits perfectly with our commitment to baseball, which stretches from youth teams across the country to MLB."
Whether such a pact could work on a weeknight remains to be seen, of course — though MLB expressed a desire to see more games start at earlier times.
Starting games earlier in recent years has "helped increase viewership including more young fans," Baseball Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig said in a statement, "and we are optimistic that the earlier start time for Saturday’s Game Three will keep us moving in the same direction."
The time shift shows GM continuing to push advertising techniques that make its messages hard to ignore. After pulling back on ad antics during its recent financial woes, GM has begun to accelerate. Under Joel Ewanick, VP-marketing, the car maker has moved brassily to get its brands noticed — and its cars sold. By his own admission, Chevrolet was one of Mr. Ewanick’s most important projects, and he brought in Mr. Perry, a former colleague at Hyundai Motor Co., soon after he landed at General Motors late last spring.
Under Mr. Ewanick, GM has signed a deal to return to the Super Bowl — with Chevrolet advertising — for the first time since abandoning it in 2008, and moved Chevy ad work to Omnicom Group’s Goodby Silverstein & Partners from Publicis Groupe’s Publicis USA.