Few people across the country know that Michigan’s hockey program will have a cameo in Chevrolet’s latest TV ad spotlighting its line of Silverado pickups.
Scott Schlesinger was one of those select few. And the only one in his Michigan office.
The minute-long ad, which began airing Sunday during the NFL Conference Championship games, features the return of Walter, a cat who works like a dog. One scene is set on an ice pond, where Walter and his owner play hockey. When the camera pans to a close-up of the owner, he’s wearing a Michigan State hockey jersey.
Schlesinger said the look came together because of his long history of working with General Motors on behalf of the state of Michigan.
said Schlesinger, athletics sales and marketing director. “They asked me if we’d like to join them. We appreciate our partnership with GM. It’s a great organization and we’re very happy to be a partner with them, so I immediately said, ‘Yes, I’d love to do that.'” “
Schlesinger played on the Spartans football program from 1991 to 1995, and spent nearly 20 years in the athletics department. In August 2015, he was appointed Director of Corporate Relations Department. Those contacts paved the way for more exposure to MSU on Sunday.
After GM arrived, Schlesinger sent Michigan state hockey jerseys to the West Coast, where the commercial was filmed.
This isn’t the first time Michigan athletics has been featured in a commercial. A decade ago, the soccer team had a small spot in a Comcast/Xfinity ad.
Nothing compares to a Sunday in terms of prestige, though.
“The NFL game ratings are going too far,” Schlesinger said. “It’s some of the most watched programs, basically, in the history of television. There was a lot of exciting football.”
Michigan State hockey coach Danton Cole has not watched AFC or NFC title games.
But he hunted advertising.
“My phone was kind of exploding (Sunday), everyone from family and friends to alumni,” said Cole, who is in his fifth season driving the Spartans. “It was kind of awesome.”
While he wasn’t familiar with the behind-the-scenes work he went into his show for a role in a national television commercial, Cole said he knew it had to do with the “good relationships” the school had with its corporate partners.
“(It was) a small product placement,” Cole said. “So it was really nice to see him.”
Schlesinger had seen her long before Sunday. He had a preview of the announcement in early January. Then he went to work. Since Nike and the Big Ten Conference also have their logos on the Michigan State jersey, Schlesinger had to review both the multinational apparel giant and the league. If either of them objects to the use of their logo in advertising, then changes will follow – that is, an attempt to remove their logo from the T-shirt.
“But fortunately we didn’t have to go that route, or think about those alternatives,” Schlesinger said.
Although he had seen the ad several times before it was released on national television, Schlesinger admitted that he was eager to eventually air it. While he knew it was coming at some point, he said neither General Motors nor the TV broadcast partners that carry the games had told him exactly what commercial break would see its start.
“I was just waiting to see him,” he said. “It was exciting when he came out.”
He was equally excited about the response he saw to Michigan’s inclusion in the ad.
“We get a lot of positive feedback here about it,” Schlesinger said. “A lot of people have definitely seen it.”
Some of these compliments were face-to-face as well, since Schlesinger had taken an oath of secrecy.
“No one else in the department knew that was happening,” Schlesinger said. “I kept quiet.” “GM didn’t want to release exactly what (the announcement) was going to be, so a lot of people didn’t know it was coming. But people were very happy to see it and excited about it.”
Since Sunday, Schlesinger said he’s actually gone back and seen the ad several times. (Chevrolet posted the announcement on its official YouTube page on Sunday.) Viewers won’t have to go online to continue watching it, though. Schlesinger noted that the ad will run throughout the upcoming Winter Olympics, which begin on Friday. So for the foreseeable future, the rest of the country will regularly see the Michigan state hockey team adorning their television screens during commercial breaks. Schlesinger said the few graduates who are now CEOs at GM couldn’t be happier.
However, it would never have happened without constantly growing partnerships.
“It’s just a paid relationship,” Schlesinger said. “We’ve had relationships with these corporate partners for a long, long time. It just worked.”
Contact Ryan Black at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RyanABlack.