GM’s deal with Manchester United: The Goal Is China image

The world’s largest automaker has jilted America’s Super Bowl for the global variety of soccer. Yes, General Motors announced last week a five- year sponsorship deal with Manchester United, the world’s most popular football club, fixing Chevrolet as the team’s exclusive automotive sponsor.

Joe Ewanick, GM chief marketing officer said football, or soccer as it is known in the United States, has a broad fan base around the world.

“More than 3.5 billion people follow soccer and only about 400 million people follow the NFL,” added Ewanick, referring to the US National Football League, which controls the Super Bowl.

“We have to go where the our customers are,” he said.

It is a risky move. Yes but the deal is not about Europe, where the club is based.
Much of Manchester United’s fans are in Asia, namely China, where GM sells more cars than any other country.

“The global fan base we have and the media exposure we generate on Chinese media channels are huge,” Manchester United’s Richard Arnold told Advertising Age.

“We have 108 million followers in that part of the world, so it’s a powerful mix, one that western companies use to drive brand affinity.”

It’s no coincidence that, in conjunction with the sponsorship deal, Man U will be playing two off-season “friendly” matches in China this summer in what will be called the “Chevrolet China Cup.”

The carmaker is also partnering with the “One World Futbol Project” – a company that produces nearly indestructible soccer balls. GM will donate 1.5 million of these balls to young people in impoverished countries around the world.

GM did not release how much the deal will cost, but the announcement comes during a time when the automaker appeared to be scaling back its advertising and marketing. In 2010, insurance mega firm Aon replaced American insurance company AIG as the club’s principal sponsor in a then record-deal worth £80 million over four years.

Recently, automaker pulled $10 million worth of advertising on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) citing low customer impact.

The company also said it would pull ads from next year’s Super Bowl after CBS, the network airing the event in February, raised prices.