GM Kicks Off Global Soccer Deal After Budget Review

Detroit-General Motors, which spends some $4.5 billion annually in advertising globally, is betting on soccer- or football, depending on where you live, to boost the image of its volume Chevrolet brand around the globe.

In one of the world’s worst-kept secrets, GM announced today its Chevrolet brand inked a 5-year global deal with the UK’s Manchester United, one of the world’s most popular soccer teams.

GM’s volume brand will first activate the Manchester United deal in China, where the team will play in July’s Chevrolet China Cup against Shanghai Shenhua FC and another yet-to-be-named team.

Joel Ewanick, global CMO at the automaker, said at GM’s Detroit headquarters today that McCann Erickson and IPG sibling Jack Morton Worldwide will work with Chevrolet in China to give away game tickets to fans and invite them on the field during practices, as well as advertise during TV broadcasts of the games. Popular Manchester player Park Ji-Sung, a South Korean native, will represent Chevrolet.

In the U.K. at home games, Chevrolet’ owners will be able to park their cars in a special lot close to the stadium, Ewanick said. Chevy’s name and logo will be on swanky red chairs the players and coaches sit in during games and a spot frequented by cameras during TV broadcasts. There’s TV ads too, natch.

Why soccer and Manchester United?

The sport’s and the team’s numbers are pretty impressive. Ewanick said of the world’s population of 7 billion, 3.5 billion of them consider themselves soccer fans. Manchester has 659 million followers worldwide and more than 25 million Facebook fans. Meanwhile, the NFL has 100 million fans globally. While the 2012 Super Bowl attracted 125 million viewers, a recent, televised  Manchester match had an audience of 400 million. And Forbes ranked Manchester United as the most valuable sports team from 2007 through 2011.

Pretty impressive stats, eh?

The genesis of the deal wasn’t from one of GM’s agencies. Ewanick said the seed germinated at an ad conference last fall in San Francisco, when he met and chatted with Manchester United’s Commercial Director Richard Arnold. “The more we talked about Chevy and where we are strong and they want to grow and where they are strong and we want to grow it was easy to see there were ways for us to work together.”

As part of the Chevrolet’s new sponsorship, it is donating 1.5 million indestructible soccer balls over the next three years to the One World Futball Project. The non-profit will distribute the balls to children in war zones, disaster areas and disadvantaged communities, including in the U.S. Chevy introduced its partnership with this two-minute video featuring Sting

Lisa Tarver, co-founder and COO of One World, said 30 million children globally will benefit from these 1.5 million soccer balls and bring them hope for a better future. Here she is with Ewanick today (He’s holding the durable Chevy-branded ball, while she’s got a so-called “rag ball,” made from rags and leaves by kids in many parts of the world)

The news comes in the wake of GM’s very public, recent move to pull out of the Super Bowl and yank its $10-million annual ad spending from Facebook. Other than 2009 and 2010 in the wake of GM’s post bankruptcy reorganization, the automaker had a major, longtime presence as a Super Bowl advertiser. Chevrolet had 5 ads in both the 2011 and 2012 games, plus  one in both post game shows when it awarded new Corvettes to the MVPs. This year, it gave away 20 new Chevy vehicles and  made a huge digital and mobile play, along with an MTV music video and several online sponsorships.

(SEE AUTOADOPOLIS CHEVY-2012 SUPER BOWL BLOG HERE BOWLhttps://autoadopolis.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/chevys-multi-media-super-bowl-blitz/

Ironically GM raved about the results of its Super Bowl effort after the game.

Ewanick said today that NBC wanted too much of an increase for the carmaker to re-up for the Big Game in 2013. “This time every year we evaluate every line item in our media budget,” he said. Although GM found a great return on its investment, next year’s “significant” hike for the Super Bowl was just too expensive.

Not to worry. Another carmaker will gladly pick up the slack. And although Ewanick said “right now that door is closed” for Super Bowl advertising, “we can always change out mind.”

Ditto for Facebook, where Ewanick said GM spent $30 million a year creating content in addition to the $10-million ad buy. “We’ll continue our conversations with Facebook over the summer.” He said Facebook users found GM’s ads “a little bit distracting” and that the automaker had unsuccessfully proposed to Facebook more than a dozen new ways to try to make the ads less intrusive, more engaging and relevant.

GM won’t spend less on advertising in the U.S. and will spend more outside the U.S. as the automaker tries to grow its volume brand. “We are reapplying the Super Bowl dollars for our 2013 launches” in the U.S., (including the crucial next-generation Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups), said Ewanick. “It’s not like we’re cutting in North America.” Although his 2013 ad budget  hasn’t been finalized, he said he’s trying to keep it “up a little bit every year.”

Ewanick estimated that GM and its brands spend roughly a third of their total annual ad expenditures here in the U.S. and the rest outside this country.

GM needs to improve its global marketing, said Ewanick, adding “this is something we have not done well.” For example, he wants GM to do better in Brazil and its large Rio de Janiero hub, where GM has a 12% market share. “We should have a 22% share” there, he said. “You’d be astounded by how much Hyundai spends in Brazil.”

MAKING TRACKS: Elizabeth “Liz” Boone, who was hired with much fanfare from Hyundai’s ad agency, Innocean Worldwide Americas in Huntington Beach, California in 2010, has left General Motors, where she had been global director of digital and social engagements. Boone has joined Federated Media Publishing as a VP, leading the auto category. (Ewanick told AutoAdOpolis GM is strongly considering a candidate in Shanghai as her successor)

Follow me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn and Facebook

And on Twitter @jhal2001

 

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