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Dodge Ends Partnership With Universal

Added: (Fri Dec 03 1999)

Pressbox (Press Release) - By Ben Klayman

DETROIT - DaimlerChrysler AG's (NYSE:DCX - news) (DCXGn.DE) Dodge division dumped Dr. Suess' Cat in the Hat for a chance to race with NASCAR's Jeff Gordon.

Dodge on Thursday confirmed a report in Brandweek magazine that it has ended its marketing partnership with Universal Studios less than a year after trumpeting the relationship and its potential.

Dodge officials said they preferred to concentrate efforts on plans to reenter the NASCAR Winston Cup racing series in 2001. Universal also was asking for too much financially.

"From a financial situation, the package that Universal had offered just became too expensive," DaimlerChrysler spokesman Mike Rosenau said. "Not with any disrespect to them because they were offering a lot back, but we decided to spend the money going Winston Cup racing."

Universal officials could not be reached to comment.

Rosenau said DaimlerChrysler decided against doing both programs. Dodge said last month it was returning to the popular Winston Cup series -- home of such popular drivers as Gordon and Dale Earnhardt -- because of the sport's national exposure, high loyalty rate among fans, and dealer and owner interest.

Dodge spent millions of dollars on the Universal program and will spend several million on the NASCAR program, a source close to the automaker said.

The deal was meant to boost Dodge's brand image and owner loyalty through marketing tie-ins in Universal's movies, theme parks and Internet Web sites. Initially, the deal didn't include payments by either company.

The studio, owned by Canadian-based beverage company Seagram Co. Ltd. (Toronto:VO.TO - news), used the partnership to tap into Dodge's customer database of 8 million owners, a large group of potential customers for its movies, clothes, theme parks and other products.

Both companies had said the deal would benefit them financially.

Dodge's stable of vehicles includes the Caravan minivan, Ram full-size pickup truck, Durango sport utility vehicle and Viper coupe. Universal has the rights to such well-recognized characters as the Cat in the Hat, Spiderman, Popeye and Bullwinkle Moose, and hit movies like 'Jurassic Park.'

The agreement's cornerstone was an advertising campaign that coincided with the summer opening of Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Fla. All Dodge minivan owners were invited to a June sneak preview of the park as part of the automaker's first minivan owners' reunion.

"These owners programs are very important," Rosenau said. "Was the one with Universal good? Yes, but we think we can do owners programs just as well if not better with new and different partners."

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