Byline: Donna De Marco, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Companies are setting aside political preferences to put their names in front of thousands of influential leaders, reporters and consumers at the 2004 Republican National Convention next week at Madison Square Garden.
Conventiongoers will be blitzed with corporate sponsorships and marketing gimmicks like Kraft's elephant-and-star-shaped Macaroni & Cheese, General Motors' hybrid buses and the chirping of Nextel's walkie-talkie feature on phones used by convention organizers.
"It's tremendous exposure for them," said Dawn Lerman, assistant professor of marketing at Fordham University. "Companies can use that exposure to help support their brand image or their company image."
That exposure is intended to hit the 50,000 visitors who are expected to come to New York from Aug. 30 through Sept. 2 for the convention and could even reach the television viewing audience.
Anheuser-Busch, for instance, had a massive sign at the FleetCenter welcoming the Democratic National Convention to Boston last month. The sign was seen by millions of viewers when it was aired in the background of television shots. The beer giant plans to customize existing signage near Madison Square Garden.
Companies - both big and small - are usually present at both conventions hoping for the same results: more sales, new clients and permanent customers.
Nextel Communications Inc., the official wireless service provider for both conventions, will donate thousands of wireless phones equipped with Direct Connect, Nextel's walkie-talkie feature, and Blackberry devices for convention organizers.
"This is an opportunity for [people] to witness and use Nextel," said Tim O'Regan, a Nextel spokesman. "We're incredibly proud of this. It shows they have a great deal of trust and confidence in our products and services."
Officials for the Host Committee for the Republican National Convention did not return phone calls for comment.
General Motors, the official transportation provider for the convention, will supply organizers with about 200 vehicles - from Cadillacs to Chevy Suburbans. In addition, America's largest automaker will lend five to eight hybrid buses to shuttle people around the city, as well as several hybrid pickup trucks.
"This is a great opportunity to market our vehicles," said Chris Preuss, a spokesman for General Motors, which has been supplying vehicles for both conventions since 1980. …