Chevrolet is embracing online marketing linked to the Super Bowl like never before, betting it can more effectively grab consumers' attention during the National Football League's championship game by harnessing the Internet and social media.
While still running several TV ads, General Motors Co's mainstream Chevy brand will focus Super Bowl-related marketing efforts more heavily around online deals with NBC, which is broadcasting the big game, as well as Twitter and Facebook.
"The Super Bowl is the event that everyone in the country gets around," Chris Perry, head of Chevy marketing, told reporters at GM's downtown headquarters. "It's not a sporting event, it's a social event.
"People now engage with it not just with the TV itself, but with that second screen on their lap or in their pocket," he added, referring to viewers who use smartphones or laptops while watching the game on TV.
This year's Super Bowl, pitting the New England Patriots against the New York Giants, will be played in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Sunday. The event is traditionally the most widely viewed television show in the United States, drawing more than 100 million viewers.
Thirty-second ads on the Super Bowl cost upward of $3.5 million this year, although Perry said GM spent less per 30-second ad because it is such a big customer.
The auto maker declined to disclose its total ad budget for the Super Bowl.
"Super Sunday" is an unofficial holiday in the United States, and many Americans – even those who do not particularly enjoy football – tune in to the game just to see what racy or spectacular ads will be unleashed.
Chevy officials see their new, Web-centric approach as a formula they can use again around other events to engage consumers and draw them into showrooms.
Perry expects Chevy's Super Bowl ad campaign, which launched Jan. 22 and runs through Feb. 8, to draw more than 1.5 billion views online and on TV through all the various activities.
Chevy decided to beef up its online effort partly to differentiate itself from the 10 other auto makers that will run TV ads before, during and after the game. The brand did not make as many online deals tied to last year's game.
Chevy is the exclusive advertiser on Twitter's aggregated Super Bowl page, "Road to the Super Bowl," as well as the lone auto maker advertiser for NBCsports.com's live streaming of the game as well as on Facebook Admeter, which will rank the most popular Super Bowl TV ads.
In addition, musical group OK Go, popular for its elaborate, creative, low-budget music videos, will feature a Chevy Sonic subcompact car in their new video that will debut on Super Bowl weekend.
Chevy also introduced a new Super Bowl-related app, "Chevy Game Time," on Jan. 22. It includes Chevy ads, polls, trivia and giveaways including 20 Chevy vehicles. The app has been downloaded about 130,000 times in the first four days and proven popular on the Android and Apple app markets.
"This is another big platform for us to come out and tout our products," said Rich Martinek, Chevy's group advertising director.
In addition, Chevy will use actor Rainn Wilson of NBC TV's The Office to promote the brand in about 15 short online videos that arerunning on such websites as YouTube and Hulu.
Chevy is not ignoring the game's heavily watched TV ads. It will run seven TV commercials before, during and after the Super Bowl, including three in the first half. GM's Cadillac brand also will run an ad during the game. The Chevy ads, touting the Sonic, Volt electric car, Camaro and Silverado pickup truck, are available on YouTube.