GM signs on as Manchester United’s auto sponsor; looks to global brand

DETROIT, Thu May 31, 2012 – The world’s largest automaker has jilted America’s Super Bowl for the global variety of football.

General Motors Co has signed on as the automotive sponsor of the world’s most popular soccer club, Manchester United, in an attempt to cement Chevrolet as a global brand.

Terms of the five-year deal, announced in Shanghai on Thursday, were not disclosed. GM is hoping to piggyback on Manchester United’s fan base of an estimated 659 million people to boost its Chevy brand, especially in such growing Asian car markets as China, where the soccer club has 108 million fans.

“If our aspirations are to build global icon status for Chevrolet … soccer far and away is the world’s biggest sport,” Paul Edwards, GM executive director of global marketing strategy, said in an interview. “Manchester United stands head and shoulders above the other teams in terms of scale, brand value and their legacy in the sport.”

The announcement comes about two weeks after GM said it would drop ads both on Facebook, due to low consumer impact, and during next year’s Super Bowl broadcast, as the projected price tag – $4 million per 30-second spot – was too high.

GM has also consolidated its ad agencies globally in a move expected to save $2 billion over five years.

GM’s global marketing chief, Joel Ewanick, said he is squeezing costs in his budget where he can, but overall spending is not declining.

“There are no sacred lines in the budget,” he said at the company’s Detroit headquarters. “Everything’s got to prove to have value, including Facebook.”

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