Despite financial woes, carmakers play big role in Super Bowl
DETROIT – When the Motor City won the right to host the 2006 Super Bowl six years ago, Detroit’s automakers were enjoying record profits and booming sales of sport utility vehicles. Times have changed, and while the Big Three will still play a major role in the festivities, looming jobs cuts will cast a shadow over Ford Field.This week, Ford Motor Co. announced plans to cut 30,000 jobs and close 14 facilities – including a plant near Detroit – after losing $1.6 billion in its North American operations in 2005. General Motors Corp., which lost $4.8 billion in North America in the first nine months of last year, is in the midst of a similar restructuring. GM plans to cut 30,000 jobs by 2008.Chrysler Group has fared better, enjoying increased profits and healthy U.S. sales last year. But the division’s parent company, DaimlerChrysler AG, announced plans this week to cut 6,000 administrative jobs over the next three years, mostly in Germany.
Automakers say they’re determined to put on a good show despite the gloom and heavy losses. Already, GM’s Detroit headquarters is wrapped in a 21-story vinyl Super Bowl logo.”This is not an industry in which you curl up in a ball and shy away from the realities,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for GM’s Cadillac division. “It’s a time to scream to the clouds that we’re here and we’ve got great values and great prices. What better time to do that than the Super Bowl?”Both Smith and Marcey Evans, a spokeswoman for Ford, said their companies haven’t pared back any of their Super Bowl activities in light of their losses.”We just think that it’s extremely important to continue to show our support for the city of Detroit and help the city show the best it has to offer to the world,” Evans said.
Representatives for the automakers and the NFL wouldn’t reveal details of what Super Bowl sponsorships, parties and other events will cost. Susan Sherer, director of the Detroit Super Bowl host committee, said her entire budget is $18.5 million, which includes donations from each of the Big Three.Michael Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, estimates GM alone will spend up to $25 million for ads before and during the game and on sponsorship of the post-game show. Bernacchi said he expects the Big Three’s ads will be toned down this year because of the financial crisis.”In difficult economic times, it’s certainly proper for stockholders – or for anybody – to ask the question, ‘How much opulence?”‘ Bernacchi said. “It’s a fair criticism.”Smith defended the spending on the Super Bowl, and said automakers wouldn’t spend so much if it didn’t have benefits.
“This is our home city. You get to do this once,” Smith said. “We don’t see our current financial situation as a reason to not utilize this world stage that we paid to play on.”The Super Bowl will be a rare chance to see the fierce competitors working together. GM, Ford and Chrysler are co-sponsoring the Motown Winter Blast, an outdoor festival where fans can go down a snow slide, take rides in Model Ts, ice skate and enjoy live music. The festival runs from Feb. 2-5.Cadillac is the official vehicle of the Super Bowl for the fifth consecutive year, guaranteeing it the lion’s share of attention. Cadillac is providing 424 vehicles with Super Bowl logos on them for NFL staff and team executives.Automakers will take center stage at “A Detroit Salute,” the Super Bowl opening ceremony on Jan. 30. GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, Bill Ford and Chrysler President and CEO Tom LaSorda are all set to attend. Tickets range from $125 to $1,500 and proceeds go to charity.
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