GM to Market Through Deal with Latin American Portal

Automotive manufacturing giant General Motors is looking to boost its online marketing presence in Latin America, through an agreement with one of the region’s largest Internet service provider and portals.

In a pact with Miami-based Universo Online, the Detroit automaker will receive advertising space and promotional opportunities for its Chevrolet brand, including sponsorships of the UOL Carro automotive channel of the ISP’s portal. Additionally, the agreement specifies that UOL will design and host co-branded micro sites, promotional sweepstakes and e-mail marketing campaigns for GM.

There’s a data-gathering aspect to the deal as well. GM said it would use data from UOL’s membership to better understand Web purchasing decisions, citing internal data that suggests that more than two-thirds of people who intend to purchase a new vehicle are Internet users and have made at least one purchase online.

“The overlap of automotive customers and Internet users makes the GM-UOL partnership in Latin America a very promising one,” said Fritz Henderson, GM group vice president and president of GM’s Latin America, Africa & Middle East unit.

The companies said they are also ironing out details of a joint offline marketing initiative that would promote both UOL and Chevrolet.

Financial aspects of the deal were not disclosed.

It’s the first attempt by GM to use an Internet alliance of this nature to single out any non-U.S. target audiences. UOL has a membership base of about 15 million users in Latin America, one of the region’s largest portals. It’s especially focused on the Brazilian market with a country-specific portal, although it also has regional sites in Argentina and Colombia.

“UOL’s dominance of the important Brazilian Internet market, where it reaches more than 80 percent of all Internet users, will provide significant exposure for GM’s brands and vehicle portfolio,” Henderson said.
“UOL’s penetration rate is higher than comparable Internet portal sites anywhere in the world. But beyond the figures, the functionality of UOL’s sites, as well as quality in content, is a strength that we will leverage in growing GM’s Internet strategies throughout the region.”

Independently, GM said it is pursuing Internet marketing and sales strategies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, and that the deal signifies its commitment to Web marketing in the region. Late last year, GM launched a direct Internet sales business with the introduction of Chevrolet Celta in Brazil.

“This regional alliance with UOL underscores GM’s aggressive efforts to be the world leader in e-commerce,” said Walter Wieland, president of GM do Brasil.

Latin America lately has seen a large number of Internet firms striking promotional partnerships with U.S.-based multinationals interested in reaching the region’s burgeoning Web audience.

Last month, troubled Alley-based portal StarMedia Network handed over stock in return for about $25 million in cash from Bell South and $11 million from Primedia, in return for promises to help the companies market to its user base, which consists primarily of U.S. Hispanic/Latinos and Latin Americans.

“The Latin American Internet market is still it its beginnings,” said Luis Frias, chairman and chief executive of UOL. “Partnership between an innovative blue chip company and a new economy company can accelerate growth and bring substantial results for both partners.”

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