Tigers Owner Giving Automakers Free Advertising

Sure, it won’t directly help sell cars, but Mike Illitch is doing his part to try to help save America’s automakers. The Detroit Tigers owner is refusing to boot General Motors from Comerica Park’s premium advertising space — with GM’s name and cars on a fountain beyond center field — despite the fact that the company can’t make the payments on the original sponsorship deal that landed it the spot in the first place.

general motors fountain

(If we’d known it was free, we would have pushed to make it “SportsbyBrooks Fountain.” That has a ring to it, doesn’t it?)

GM had to quit corporate sponsorship of a variety of different sports teams after it received federal funding to help avoid bankruptcy. But, according to BLOOMBERG, the Tigers decided to let GM continue to use the space, which it will share with Chrysler and Ford, for free for the entire 2009 season:

“I kept asking myself, ‘What can I do to help?’” Ilitch said. “I’ve always viewed GM, Ford and Chrysler as pillars of strength in our community and I understand the ups and downs that a business must endure. To me, it’s a small way of showing our support and saying thank you for all the times they’ve been there for this community.” 

It probably won’t kill Illitch’s bank account, considering the fact that FORBES recently labeled him the 301st richest American with a net worth of $1.6 billion. Evidently he’s relatively recession proof.

That’s more than you can say about any of the automakers who will share the GM space. Rather than having GM cars displayed on the side of the large General Motors sign in center, the Tigers are displaying a large Chrysler logo on the left and Ford logo on the right, with a sign directly underneath that says “The Detroit Tigers Support Our Automakers”.

It’s a small measure, but a significant one nonetheless, and all too rare as teams brace for losses with expected declines in attendance.

“He’s very passionate about the community and Chrysler, Ford and General Motors have been an integral part of our region,” said Duane McLean, the Tigers’ senior vice president of business operations. “In the end, this was a community decision more than it was a business decision.”