GM will continue soccer sponsorship despite exit of global marketing chief
Chevrolet brand to sponsor Manchester United shirts
LONDON -- General Motors Co. said it will not drop sponsorship deals for its Chevrolet brand with English soccer clubs Manchester United and Liverpool despite the dismissal of the company's global marketing chief, Joel Ewanick.
Ewanick was removed from his job for failing to adequately appraise the financial details of a recent sponsorship deal with Manchester United, according to The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.
"Our commitment to Chevrolet's soccer partnerships remain firmly in place," GM spokesman Greg Martin told Automotive News Europe.
In May, GM reached a five-year sponsorship with Manchester United allowing signage for Chevrolet at the club's stadium and access to the team for television, print and other media for use worldwide.
On Monday, Chevrolet said it had expanded the partnership to become Manchester United's shirt sponsor for seven years starting with the 2014-2015 season, replacing UK insurance group Aon.
Chevrolet did not disclose financial terms of its agreement. Media reports on the estimated value of the deal have varied from as little as $300 million, according to Bloomberg, to as much as $600 million, according to Reuters. Aon pays about $31 million a year for the current shirt sponsorship.
"Manchester United's statistics are impressive, but this relationship goes far beyond the numbers -- this relationship is about connecting our brand with the deep-seated emotion that surrounds the team everywhere it goes," said Alan Batey, GM's vice president of U.S. sales and service, in a statement. Batey is GM's interim global marketing boss until a replacement is found for Ewanick.
Last week, Chevrolet said it will also be the automotive partner of Liverpool, a UK rival of Manchester United.
The deals were seen as helping Chevrolet's image globally, especially in Asian markets where the UK's Premier soccer league is popular. Manchester United is the world's most popular soccer team with 659 million fans.
Chevrolet's global rivals, Hyundai and Kia, are both committed to soccer advertising, with long-standing agreements to sponsor the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship.
Under Ewanick's tenure as global marketing boss, GM scaled back on sports sponsorship in the United States while expanding partnerships in soccer. He pulled GM out of advertising during next year's Super Bowl, the most-watched U.S. sporting event.
GM declined to comment on the reasons for Ewanick's departure other than to say he "failed to meet the expectations the company has of an employee."
Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report
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