Saturn In Orbit With GSN Placement Deal

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Game Show Network, which has steadily increased its sponsorship and product-placement deals, has steered General Motors Corp.'s Saturn division into its new series Cram, due to bow Jan.6.

On Cram,
contestants must stay awake for 24 hours, studying up to answer questions on various topics the following day. Two co-ed, two-member teams will compete on the show, to air at 11 p.m.

Saturn's Ion model will get considerable promotion through billboards, Web-site plugs and placement within the show. GSN will back a tie-in sweepstakes, with the car featured on the program as the grand prize.

GSN senior vice president of ad sales Michael Sakin said the Ion will be used to
transport the contestants to and from the Cram
television studio during 40 episodes, which will run three times daily over eight weeks for a total of 168 showings.

During an opening seven-second bumper, the contestants will be shown getting into a Saturn Ion 3, to be driven to the studio, where host Graham Elwood will announce their arrival.

At the close of each program, contestants will be shown getting out of the car and walking toward their Cram
pad during an eight-second plug for the next installment.

Saturn will also be integrated into game play. During eight shows, questions will be taken from the Ion owner's manual. Contestants will be asked to identify parts of the engine, for example, or guess the Ion's horsepower. Those segments will run for two or three minutes, Sakin said.

During what's called "the bicycle round" in 20 other Cram
installments, Sakin said, contestants will have to fill in the blanks within various riddles. The catch: One tired contestant will sit on a stationary bike (with the teammate in a sidecar) and for each wrong answer, he or she must increase pedaling speed in increments of three miles per hour. Their backdrop, on a giant plasma TV screen, will be a road scene, featuring the Ion.

"It's not a shameless plug," Sakin said. "It works within the framework of the show."

Sakin declined to disclose Saturn's Cram
budget, saying only that it represents "incremental spending beyond GM's upfront commitment." Officials at the automaker couldn't be reached by press time.

GSN senior vice president of marketing Dena Kaplan said the "Cram
Car Sweepstakes" will benefit from hefty on-air and off-channel support, more so than most network contests. The on-air, online and network radio support is valued "in the $200,000 to $300,000 range," Kaplan estimated.

The grand prize: the $20,000 "Cram
car" featured on the show. Lesser prizes will range from Sony PlayStation 2 sets to kits containing a tote bag and other goodies.

All told, Ion will be mentioned in 25 30-second spots due to run between Dec. 30 and Jan. 19, as well as during commercials, Kaplan said. The auto brand's logo will also be included in an electronic mailing sent to 266,000 "opt-in" registrants to the GSN Web site.

Other online support will include buys on youth-oriented sites, she added.

More product pursuit

GM is no stranger to such sponsorship and product-placement deals. Two weeks ago, it announced that it has renewed for CBS'Survivor: The Amazon, due in February.

GSN wants to expand into this realm as well. Sakin has just started to pitch "virtual product placements," or digital product insertions on such shows as Cram
and Wintuition (which bowed Dec. 9), via Princeton Video Image Inc. The initial focus is on such categories as beverage, fast food, packaged goods and movies.

In addition, GSN has renewed M&M/Mars's product-placement deal on Whammy! The All New Press Your Luck, said Sakin. Retail and automotive clients are also being pursued

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