DETROIT -- General Motors Co. has signed on as the automotive sponsor of Manchester United, the world's most popular soccer club, in an attempt to cement Chevrolet as a global brand.
Starting Friday, Chevrolet will be one of almost 30 corporate sponsors for Manchester United, replacing Audi as the English club's automotive sponsor.
Under the deal, the Chevrolet logo will appear on signs, scoreboards and player benches in the soccer club's stadium as well as on backdrops and chairs during interviews.
GM is hoping to benefit from Manchester United's fan base of an estimated 659 million people to boost its Chevrolet brand, especially in such growing Asia car markets as China, where the soccer club has 108 million fans.
"If our aspirations are to build global icon status for Chevrolet, soccer far and away is the world's biggest sport," said Paul Edwards, GM executive director of global marketing strategy. "Manchester United stands head and shoulders above the other teams in terms of scale, brand value and their legacy in the sport."
The announcement comes two weeks after GM said it would drop ads on Facebook, due to low consumer impact, and during next year's Super Bowl broadcast, as the projected price tag -- $4 million per 30-second spot -- was too high.
Edwards said the Manchester United sponsorship deal shows GM is shifting its investments where they can do the most good for Chevy brand awareness and sales.
He said Manchester United's TV audiences easily outpace those of the Super Bowl, which annually ranks as the most watched TV program in the U.S. market with more than 100 million viewers.
Manchester United's 2011 Champions League final against Barcelona was watched by about 350 million people, and even the average game draws 50 million globally, according to club officials.