DETROIT: In a stark illustration of General Motors' revamped marketing approach in a changing media landscape, the automaker has announced the imminent end of its $1 billion (€726m; £493m) sponsorship of the US Olympic Team.
The ten-year contract will lapse after the 2008 games in Beijing as GM looks for more flexible and cost effective ways to spend its marketing dollars.
Under the existing deal GM enjoyed rights as 'official vehicle-maker' for the US team, plus domestic auto advertising exclusivity on NBC and its affiliates' TV and online coverage of the games.
Explaining GM's decision, spokeswoman Ryndee Carney said: "We are looking for ways to be more flexible instead of entering into a 10-year deal ... We need to be able to move faster because business is moving faster."
The automaker has been struggling financially - in common with its main domestic rivals - and is in the throes of a major restructure, but Carney insists cost-cutting was not a factor in the demise of the sponsorship deal.
She emphasised that GM is looking to spend its ad dollars in the most efficient way, including moving toward digital formats and away from traditional print, television and radio.
GM's departure from the Games is a blow to the US Olympic Committee, which will struggle to find an auto sector replacement in the current climate.
USOC spokesman Darryl Siebel was circumspect in his response: "Our current agreement with General Motors means that GM will be an official US Olympic team sponsor through 2008.
"As to where things stand with a possible renewal, we do not comment on the status of ongoing discussions with our corporate partners."
Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff