Last fall, as troupes of superstar singers were spreading the Christian gospel at a series of church concerts throughout the country, the Chrysler Group was working closely with the tour to disseminate a little good news of its own. In Chrysler’s case, the message was about the upsides of its new Aspen luxury sport utility vehicle, which the carmaker hoped to introduce to black Christian audiences throughout the sold-out concert tour. The tour, which wound through seven cities, played solely in the super-sized “mega-churches” that have begun popping up nationwide, with the singers’ messages – and Chrysler’s – being broadcast in sanctuaries seating anywhere from 4,000 to 18,000 attendees. At each stop, the Aspen was featured prominently at pre-concert events, and churchgoers were urged to sign up for test drives. The sign-ups helped Chrysler target a strong list of potential African-American buyers, many of whom the carmaker later reached out to through direct mail and e-mail. “We consider it to be a success,” says Carrie McElwee, Chrysler Group brand marketing senior manager, of the concert tour. “It got the brand in front of African-American consumers in a place where they meet and feel comfortable. We were trying to go where the audience is, rather than ask them to come to us.” And Chrysler’s not going alone. Increasingly, major brands are becoming more comfortable using big churches and Christian religious events as springboards for direct marketing efforts, emboldened by the prospect of tapping into the lucrative spending power of the avowedly faithful. There are about 270,000 religious congregations in the United States with a combined annual revenue of $80 billion, according to a February 2007 report from First Research Inc. Slightly more than 50 percent of Americans belong to a religious organization. Christianity is the largest faith in the United States, with the largest denominations being Catholics (about 25 percent of the population) and Baptists (16 percent). And while other faiths also have attracted corporate dollars, Christianity is the key focal point for most marketers. Likewise, many churches are more willing to enter into corporate partnerships than in years past. For instance, Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, which served as one of the stops on the concert tour, also maintains partnerships with an international bank and a global soda manufacturer. The bank recently sponsored a back-to-school festival at the church where children received free backpacks bearing the bank’s logo. And the beverage maker donated a large passenger van to the church to ferry senior citizens after church members bought nearly 14,000 cases of the company’s soda. Pages: 1 2 Brand Marketing, Large Business, Medium Business
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