GM Backs Out of TV Commitments, Puts Its Money On Super Bowl

General Motors (NYSE:GM) is backing out of a large number of its second-quarter upfront broadcast and cable commitments to cut costs, but plans to put its money in Super Bowl and March Madness ads. GM has exercised options to cancel nearly 50 percent of its second-quarter upfront buys — the maximum allowed by the terms of network advertising contracts.

GM’s withdrawal follows a worldwide media review that saw the leading automaker consolidate its $3 billion media-buying account at Carat. The move was an attempt to lower expenses by about $10 million. The business was previously divided regionally among many firms, including Publicis Groupe’s Starcom in the U.S., Universal McCann in Latin America and Carat in Europe. With the review, GM realized it had overextended itself in the upfront for 2011-12.

GM now plans to depend on two popular sports franchises, according to the report. The company will air at least four commercials during the Feb. 5 NBC broadcast of Super Bowl XLVI, including Chevrolet spots for Camaro, Sonic and either Silverado or Volt, and one Cadillac spot.

Also, as an NCAA corporate partner, GM will advertise its Buick brand throughout the CBS and Turner Sports joint coverage of the 2012 March Madness tournament. In the past, GM has not hesitated to spend big bucks on the tournament. A report by Kantar Media said that in 2010 the automaker led advertising spending with an investment of $47.2 million in 30-second in-, pre- and post-game spots. GM committed about $1.2 billion to TV that year.

Ad sales executives say GM’s pullback doesn’t warn of a broader contraction. “It’s an isolated incident,” one sales boss said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s obviously not ideal, but it’s not as if they’re the first lemming off the cliff.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Gina Smith at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com