I knew that I had to first see John Bluth, VP-Account Supervisor. John would be my boss. The Campbell Ewald Chevy Merchandising group was located in a hallway just to the right of the elevators. On either side of the hallway were doors framing translucent glass that led to the secretarial areas. Off of this area were the doors leading to the individual offices. I tried my luck with the door that said John Bluth. John was a great guy. If something hit the fan, he would work with you to fix it. John outlined my duties. I was to be the Chevrolet Sports Marketing Account Executive. Chevy was neck deep with sponsorships of NCAA, Major League Baseball, the AAU, the Soap Box Derby, and the Chevrolet Super Sports (SS) Team which was comprised of sports celebrity endorsors. Not too shabby! John took me across the hall to meet his boss, Chuck McLaughlin, Sr. VP-Management Supervisor. If Ricardo Montalban and a leprechaun were to have a child, it would have been Chuck. Stylish, genteel, sophisticated, with a quick wit, devilish sense of humor, and a twinkle in his eye. After meeting with Chuck, I was shown to my office. Each office had at least one window, and a Frigidaire window-mounted air conditioner. From the air, the old GM building looked like conjoined Hs, the verticals connected by a long horizontal member. My windows looked across to the next wing, and down to the GM waste removal area. I’m quite sure that my window air conditioner was powered by a Pratt and Whitney 2500HP engine, the same engine that powered the WWII P-47 Thunderbolt. If I wanted to talk on the phone, or have a meeting in my office, the a/c had to be shut off.
On my desk I had a phone and a Dictaphone recording device. I was told that it was faster to just write my memos out in longhand and give them to my secretary. There was a wooden coat rack in the corner, and two chairs in front of my desk. The filing cabinets behind me were empty…except for an unused condom that was caught in one of the file rollers. Probably left over from the Christmas party of 1971. I asked for some Lysol and paper towels to clean my desktop. John came in and dropped about sixty pounds of files on my desk. “Familiarize yourself with these. It will give you a good idea of what you will be doing. And, call the travel office and have them book you a ticket for LA. You’re going there on Thursday.” Whahhhh?? As the sports merchandising guy, i would be attending each week’s NCAA Football game on ABC. UCLA was playing Ohio State in LA on Saturday. This was the drill: Thursday fly to location city, ABC booked my room; Friday attend pre-production meeting with ABC technical people, handle any ticket requests local Zone people had; Saturday go to the game (with my all-access ABC credential) and make sure Chevy display near end zone was visible, make sure Chevy guy presenting Scholarship Award check knew how to pronounce the players’ names, then attend post game party; Saturday go home.
I was fortunate that my first game was a night game. Most games were played on Saturday afternoon. This triggered the Chevrolet Sun-visor Program. In concept, it was very clever. Produce cardboard sun-visors in the home team’s school colors, with a very large Chevy bowtie logo on the top of the visor, and the team’s football schedule on the underside of the visor. They would be distributed free at the gate, with the expectation that the ABC cameras would broadcast a sea of Chevy logos as they panned the packed stadium. On Monday of the week of the game, ABC would call and tell me who the teams for Saturday would be…this was before the era of “regional” games. I would whip out my College Sports Information Director’s Handbook and find out the school’s colors, the capacity of the stadium, their current season’s football schedule, and the name of their Sports Information Director. I would call the SID and tell him that Chevy was donating $500 to their booster club if they would distribute the visors at the game. By noon, I had contacted the printer with the quantity (basically, the capacity divided by two because half of the stadium was in the shade), the school colors, the schedule, and a shipping address and a local contact to confirm delivery. The completed visors were to arrive by Thursday afternoon. My first “visor game” was Texas – Oklahoma. The visors had arrived, Jim Bob Gullickson of the Hook-Em Horns Boosters called to confirm. We were ready to rock and roll. I dutifully sent out a memo telling everyone to watch the game. Gameday arrived. The cameras panned the vast stadium crowd. Nobody was wearing a visor!!!!!
What had gone wrong? They got there in time. Jim Bob seemed to be a man of his word. Then the the glaring flaw in the program hit me. Most college teams make the visiting fans sit in the sun, the home team season ticket holders get to sit in the shade and don’t need a sun-visor. No Oklahoma fan would be caught dead wearing Texas colors. Students don’t wear visors, they wear horns, or beaver hats, or gator heads, or Spartan helmets. I offered a solution that I knew would keep the multi-billion dollar General Motors Corporation solvent. Reversible sun visors! We lost the schedule, and printed the school colors of both schools, one per side. The next week at the Alabama – LSU game, the Chevy bowtie ruled the day.
For a while we had convinced ABC to mount their sideline cameras in the beds of Chevy Luv trucks. As the play on the field moved back and forth, you could see cameramen clutching their cameras as the trucks lumbered up and down the field. The clarity and stability of the shot relied on the acceleration and braking skills of the driver.
I was settling into the routine of an ad guy…well, at least a sports promotions guy. A quick breakfast, the long commute down Woodward, lunch with the other account men in the GM cafeteria, the long commute up Woodward, dinner and bed. To break up the day, I decided to try a new beverage that had just been invented: coffee. There was no coffee room or break room. Someone in our group brought in a nifty thing called a Mr. Coffee. The secretaries were in charge of the “Coffee Club.” For $5 a week, you had unlimited access to the coffee. Not being an addict yet, I opted for the 25 cents per cup plan. The NCAA football season was winding down. Visors were printed, car displays were arranged, cue cards were made, pre-production meetings were attended. We were preparing ourselves for the ultimate football game, the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Chevy’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the year would each receive $10,000 scholarship checks for their schools during the halftime ceremonies. The teams were set: USC vs Texas A&M. I was told that I would go to the game and manage the Chevy halftime festivities. I told all my friends and family to tune in. It would be monumental.
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