Disney News

The Future of GM at EPCOT

THE MOTOR REPORT is reporting this morning that General Motors is cutting up to US$800 million from its North American advertising budget this year.

While this will affect GM’s plans for sponsoring the upcoming Transformers sequel,  it is currently unknown whether GM will continue to provide Disney sponsorship dollars for Epcot’s TEST TRACK attraction.  It has been announced that the budget cut applies to GM’s print, TV and film advertising, and its vehicle purchase incentives. 

The sponsorship cost has never been announced, but is estimated to be about US$5 million per year, according to sources. This is just a drop in the bucket when compared to cutting $800 million in a single year.

The question is whether dropping the sponsorship would be worthwhile to GM?  Would Disney continue to operate the attraction without a sponsor (most likely yes, as Test Track is a primary Epcot destination)?  Would Ford step in, or Toyota?  or Honda?

More than 70 million people have visited Test Track since it opened, so GM has certainly been exposed to a large number of Disney visitors – both via the ride as well as in the post-show / car display.  I went on Test Track with a car fan (I mean, a REAL car buff), and we spent a good hour in the post-show looking at all the GM car displays.  

Well, I didn’t, but he did.  I wandered the shop, went out and got a churro, came back, sat around, and waited some more.  But I digress.  The point is that for at least one person that I know, the GM exhibit was a worthwhile addition to their Epcot experience.

GM has a long history of being innovative with their advertising.  They were the first corporation to sign a sponsorship deal with Disney for the Epcot project; in 2004, they were the first marketer to sponsor a video-on-demand project on Comcast cable in Philadelphia; in 1936, they hosted a “Parade of Progress” featuring the latest technology for the home (“the Fridgidare!”). 

Continuing to sponsor Test Track would seem to be a no-brainer for the cost.  If the popular attraction pulls in 20,000 riders a day, not to mention those that merely wander by, the mere exposure makes it a worthwhile investment and continues GM’s focus on innovative advertising.

Dropping all advertising isn’t a wise thing to do in a struggling economy.  Companies still need to advertise their product.  Having a major presence in front of a captive audience seems like a no-brainer to me.  Then again, I’m not trying to save $800 million this year.