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Value of Deal with Man United Getting Early Test

$559 million tie-up got marketing chief fired.

by on Apr.15, 2014

Manchester United's Phil Townsend (left) and Chevrolet U.S. Marketing Vice President Paul Edwards announce Chevrolet's sponsorship of Manchester United's match vs. Real Madrid at the University of Michigan on Aug. 2.

One of General Motors’ most controversial marketing endeavors will be on full display as the Manchester United Football Club will barnstorm in the U.S. this summer, wearing their new jerseys, featuring the Chevrolet brand logo in distinctive colors.

With 60% of Chevrolet’s sales outside the United States, the maker is looking to make an impact in markets around the world. The $559 million, seven-year deal with Manchester United, which sidelined the career of at least one senior GM executive, also offers Chevrolet an opportunity to change the conversation around the brand away from the ignition-switch recall controversy, which has swamped the company in recent weeks.

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Manchester United, which is considered by some to be the best, if not the best-known, soccer club in the world, will play the L.A. Galaxy of Major League Soccer in the Chevrolet FC Cup, July 23, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

The team will then travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to play Champion’s League rival Real Madrid – one of Europe’s top clubs – in a match at the University of Michigan Stadium as part of a separate series of games.

The allure of the club was on display when the tickets for the game against Real Madrid were released to the public – after a four-day presale where by day two there were only single seats available – they sold out in less than 30 minutes. The school expects to break the U.S. record for attendance at a soccer game of 101,799. U-M stadium holds nearly 110,000 people.

The controversial marketing tie with the team simply known as Man U. was negotiated by Joel Ewanick, former GM vice president of marketing. Ewanick was fired in 2012 with the $559-million deal considered to be the primary reason for his dismissal by then-Chairman Dan Akerson.

Even though, GM decided to pull the Chevrolet brand from Europe to give the company’s Opel brand more room to maneuver, Chevrolet kept Manchester United sponsorship. Even with Chevrolet gone from Europe, the deal will help Chevrolet sell vehicles. More than half of Manchester United’s followers on social media are in China, Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia where Chevrolet expects to expand sales.

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The match with the Galaxy is part of Manchester United’s 2014 pre-season schedule and will be the first time the club plays in Chevrolet-branded shirts. Chevrolet, which kicks off its seven-year shirt sponsorship with Manchester United on July 1.

“It will be an incredible moment for Chevrolet. Not only will we have our brand on Manchester United’s shirts for the first time in a world-class match in a historic venue, but we’ll give Manchester United fans around the world a chance to watch their favorite football club,” said Paul Edwards, U.S. vice president, Chevrolet Marketing.

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Manchester United will play defending ICC champion Real Madrid Aug. 2 at the University of Michigan’s Michigan Stadium and hopes to attract a record crowd to the Big House. The match is part of the 2014 Guinness International Champions Cup.

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Chevrolet is the official vehicle of the Guinness International Champions Cup, which features eight European football clubs competing July 24 through Aug. 4 at venues throughout the U.S. following the World Cup. Besides the Manchester United-Real Madrid match, clubs include F.C. Inter, AS Roma, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Olympiacos and AC Milan.

Chevrolet last month also launched “What Do You #PlayFor?” – a global campaign that asks fans to define the spirit of play in their own words and images, with a “digital community” hosted at www.ChevroletFC.com, Edwards said.

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