Now GM’s Joel Ewanick buys Manchester United

Or some part of it anyway, as General Motors and Manchester United have scheduled a press conference in Shanghai tomorrow to announce a marketing deal.

GM, you may recall, is based in Detroit and Man U is in, well, Manchester (Salford actually) but Shanghai’s where the money is.

Man U is currently sponsored by American insurance firm Aon so we have to assume that the impending GM/Man U deal doesn’t mean Chevy plastered across Wayne Rooney’s shirt, although you never know.

GM, which these days means mostly Chevrolet, is the world’s biggest carmaker (thanks to sales in China) and one of the biggest advertisers, at about $3bn.

It has recently pulled its ads from Facebook (saving about $10m) and the Super Bowl (about twice that) leaving a bit more in the pot for Man U, despite CMO Joel Ewanick’s avowed intention to shave the company’s total marketing costs by $2bn a year. So there’s probably enough in the pot to buy out Aon. It’s hard to see how any big marketing deal could work without shirt sponsorship.

Well, all will be revealed tomorrow in the Far East, where Man U will be on tour and where its American owners the Glazer family are eyeing a float to pay back some of the money they borrowed (mostly from the club) to buy Man U in the first place.

This won’t go down very well with those of Man U’s claimed 600m supporters worldwide who actually live in the same country (the UK) as Manchester.

They’re fed up with their greedy American owners and probably won’t take too kindly to Chevy being plastered all over their shirts (or shorts or jockstraps or whatever). Aon, or its US predecessor AIG, didn’t count – nobody in the UK knew who they were or what they did anyway.

As for GM and CMO Ewanick (left) it’s another game-breaking marketing and media deal. He’s already set up his very own creative agency, Commonwealth, to handle Chevy, moved all his media into Carat and fired a pre-IPO torpedo at Facebook by pulling his advertising.

But it’s not all plain sailing for Ewanick and GM in the States, upscale brand Buick is currently tanking because Ewanick has (arguably) moved it too far upmarket, removing discounts and trying to compete with the Germans. As with this deal, he’s good at grabbng headlines but can he deliver the goods?

As for Man U, who recently lost the top spot in England to Abu Dhabi-funded ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City, they’ll do anything for money.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

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    So GM is only Chevy! Maybe a little research would come up with the names of Opel, Vauhall, Cadillac, Corvette, Buick and GMC Trucks!