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Corvette placement in `Glee' hits right note for Chevy

September 30, 2010 |  5:36 pm


What would Will Schuester drive? That is, what car would the repressed "Glee" teacher buy to break out of his doldrums and try to win back his girlfriend?

The answer -- a bright yellow convertible Corvette -- came from an on- and off-screen collaboration between producers of the Fox musical hit and Chevrolet, a sponsor of the show and the recipient of major face time in this week's episode that turned out to be the show's highest rated yet.

Some 13.3 million people who tuned in Tuesday night saw Mr. Schuester let his wavy hair fly in the breeze and get his jam on to a Christopher Cross song behind the wheel of the tricked-out American classic.

"Will wants to make a change in his life -- he's boring and dull and needs to take a chance," said Steve Tihanyi, general director of entertainment marketing at General Motors' Chevrolet division. "That was the genesis of the idea from the show's creative team, and we said, 'How about a convertible Corvette?' When somebody wants to dramatically change their emotional state, that'll do it."

Turns out the car was as ill-fitting and inappropriate as Schuester's suggestive dance with a bowler hat to Britney Spears' "Toxic" in the episode.

No matter, though, to the folks at Chevy, who said they were thrilled with the episode. The car company signed on as an advertiser and event sponsor for the "Glee" series launch last year and has continued to deepen its relationship as the show catches fire in the ratings. Chevy's plans are to remained parked in the McKinley High world for the foreseeable future, Tihanyi said.

Product placement has become commonplace in television shows and viewers rarely bat an eye these days unless the placement seems to go a little over the top. One such example of placement perhaps going too far was an episode of the ABC hit "Modern Family" last season that prominently featured Apple's iPad. Ironically, in that case the show did not receive any compensation for Apple for the placement.

"Glee" isn't the only show Chevy is using to hype its cars. It also has deals with CBS's "Hawaii Five-O" and Fox's "Running Wilde."

Some highlights of the "Glee"-Chevy deal so far: Chevy sponsored a sneak peek at the Madonna-themed episode last season with a three-minute video clip of Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester singing "Vogue" and created the Chevy Locker website for "Glee" fans with behind-the-scenes clips, cast photos and other extras.

There's also been a contest that gave away a gleeked-out Chevrolet, with removable "Glee" decals, and frequent Chevrolet appearances at "Glee" parties and premieres.

The Corvette made it into Tuesday's episode twice. Mr. Schuester's new rival Dr. Carl -- played by John Stamos -- fit much more naturally into his red convertible and he had no buyer's remorse.

Other models, like the Camaro and the Cruze, have popped up on "Glee," serving to put the products in front of the female-heavy 18-49-year-old demo that watches the show. (Tihanyi said numbers show that lots of moms, who'd be targets for the Equinox and Traverse sports-utility vehicles and Malibu sedan, are fans too).

Tihanyi said the marketer isn't forcing any of the integrations -- series creators are calling the shots -- but it makes sense for an Ohio-set middle American show to use an iconic Detroit brand.

"Rather than something like a high-end import, which would seem out of place, this really syncs up," he said.

It might even move some 'vettes.

-- T.L. Stanley

Photo: The 2011 Corvette. Credit: General Motors.