General Motors signs 5-year marketing deal with Manchester United

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Artist's rendition of the Manchester United team logo.

GM has signed a 5-year marketing deal with Manchester United. (Photo Credit: CC BY/James Kieran Nguyen/Flickr)

When a corporation is looking to improve its public image, one way to go about it is to ally with a great partner. According to the Detroit Free Press, General Motors has struck up a five-year global marketing deal with British Premier League soccer powerhouse Manchester United. The Man U Red Devils are the most valuable sports franchise in the world, with a total value approaching $2 billion, notes Forbes.

Millions of supporters can’t be wrong

Manchester United boasts hundreds of millions of worldwide supporters, and well over 17 million Facebook fans, writes Forbes. Globally, soccer has an estimated 3.5 billion fans, a number that dwarfs any other sport. It’s the kind of math that GM Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick can appreciate.

“As we looked around the world and …we found a really great partner in Manchester United,” Ewanick exclaimed to the press today at General Motor’s Detroit headquarters. “Manchester United is one of the most popular sport franchisees in the world.”

Celebrating GM at Old Trafford and beyond

According to stipulations of the General Motors-Manchester United marketing deal, the Chevrolet brand will receive special advertising attention at Man U’s legendary stadium in Greater Manchester, Old Trafford. Signage, branded player seating on the sidelines and a wide variety of other marketing tools will extol the Chevrolet brand. Additional consideration includes the creation of the Chevrolet China Cup as a jewel in the Manchester United 2012 Tour crown. Matches in the tour are scheduled for July, and will include contests in Shanghai and another Chinese city yet to be named.

Pushing 5 million

Worldwide reports indicate that Chevrolet sold 4.77 million units last year, and the automaker expects to exceed 5 million in 2012. In order to reach this goal, Chevrolet is looking to big-time markets like China and Brazil to boost its advertising, noted Ewanick. Currently, a mere third of General Motors’ global marketing budget – which is estimated at $4.5 billion – is actually spent in the U.S. Now that GM has decided to stop producing Super Bowl television ads and placing paid Facebook advertisements, Ewanick notes that GM can more effectively route its advertising dollars into more potentially fruitful partnerships like the Man U deal.

Seeing is believing

The numbers were simply too large for Ewanick to ignore, notes the Free Press. One week after Super Bowl XLVI, he attended a Premier League match in Liverpool, England. Research numbers indicated that the television audience for that regular season matchup was double that of the global television audience for the Super Bowl.

“And that was just a league match,” Ewanick said.

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‘The door is shut’

Considering that recent Nielsen numbers indicate that Super Bowl viewership numbers have largely plateaued, GM didn’t see the value in continuing to pump money into the ultra-expensive time slot.

“We’re done. We really are reapplying those dollars and they know that,” he noted. “We could always change our mind. But right now, the door is shut.”

GM will reportedly maintain its overall marketing relationship with the NFL. Ewanick believes that GM is the NFL’s largest advertiser, and plans to increase the auto group’s presence during the 2013 postseason. However, as a single-game advertising investment, the Super Bowl may no longer be worth the money required for time.

Partnering with Man U is a kick


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