Pressure on Chevrolet to fulfil global dreams

General Motors’ tie-ups with Manchester Utd and Liverpool give Chevrolet the global staging platform to extend the brand beyond North America, providing it has faith in the sponsorship strategies laid out by its recently departed CMO Joel Ewanick.

Seb Joseph

GM ousted its high profile marketing chief earlier this week (29 July) after executives at the auto maker reportedly questioned the financial details of a deal he brokered for its Chevrolet brand to sponsor the Manchester United football team. Ewanick was brought in to help turn Chevrolet into an iconic global brand and saw sponsorship as a cost-efficient way of doing this over a long period of time.

The business has reportedly agreed to pay more than £25m per season for seven years, reports, to have its logo plastered across the world’s most valuable football team Manchester United’s red kit.

Along with the company’s new four-year deal with to be Liverpool football club’s automotive sponsor, Chevrolet is making a concerted effort to reach football fans the world over, but the brand must not falter on the long term strategy now that the marketer who spearheaded the deals has abruptly left the company.

Alan Batey, who has replaced Ewanick in the interim, appears to stand by the sponsorship strategy and has said the Manchester United deal is about “connecting our brand with the deep-seated emotion that surrounds the team everywhere.”

Tim Crow, chief executive of Synergy Sponsorship, says the deal marks an “aggressive” move and suggests that Chevrolet’s team is prepared to invest in making some “fundamental changes to their brand over the long-term.”

Much of Chevrolet’s marketing appears to have failed to boost its revenues in its homeland and sales fell 6.7 per cent in July, but football sponsorship could give it a reason to talk about its Chevrolet brand in a new and compelling way.

Manchester United claims to have 659 million followers worldwide which gives Chevrolet a huge potential sales target, which means that the car marque must make sure that its brand building activity works hand in hand with sales efforts.

Steve Martin, CEO at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, says: “It’s not just about using sponsorship as a brand driver. There needs to be a transactional element to the deal as well and Chevrolet could use the deal to bring in a programme of cars targeting different segments of the club’s supporters.”

Chevrolet’s concerted push to reach football fans is the latest (and most likely final) phase of changes to GM’s marketing strategy, which Ewanick spearheaded during his two year tenure at the company.

There’s clearly a global brand building job to be done here and deals with two of the world’s most supported football clubs suggest that the plan is already in place, particularly when the length of the the deal is considered.

The success will be in whether Chevrolet sees both football tie ups merely as a walking billboard opportunity or whether it manages to be creative with its activations around the clubs.

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