By Barry Janoff
May 31, 2012: General Motors confirmed today that the company has signed a deal making its Chevrolet brand the official automotive partner of Manchester United, the U.K.-based soccer team that earlier earlier this year was ranked as the most valuable sports franchise in the world and earlier this week was crowned the most popular soccer club in the world.
Financial terms of the five-year alliance were not disclosed. Chevrolet replaces Audi, which had been the team's official auto partner since 2004.
“Manchester United has some of the most passionate supporters of any sporting club in the world,” Joel Ewanick, global CMO for General Motors, said in a statement. “The Chevrolet family is proud to partner with Manchester United and is fully committed to putting these fans at the center of everything we do.”
The franchise came under controlling interest of Malcolm Glazer in 2005, who also is majority owner of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A bevy of legendary players have worn the Manchester United colors, with its best-known current player Wayne Rooney.
The deal follows on the heels of GM's decision to drop ads both on Facebook and the CBS broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013, citing "low impact" and a $4 million per 30-second price tag, respectively.
Manchester United's other marketing partners include lead partner and jersey sponsor Aon insurance, Nike, DHL, Turkish Airlines, Thomas Cook, Smirnoff, Singha beer and Epson office equipment.
Manchester United was ranked as the No. 1 most valuable sports franchise in the world earlier this year by Forbes, with an estimated worth of $2.2 billion U.S. (£1.4 billion). Manchester United is the world’s most popular football club, with an estimated 659 million fans, according to a survey conducted by marketing and research firm Kantar.
Despite those numbers, Manchester United sees a major opportunity to build its brand in the U.S.
“With 659 million United fans around the world, the commitment Chevrolet is making... to bring these fans closer to our club is very exciting for us."
“With 659 million United fans and followers around the world, the commitment that Chevrolet is making to football and its plans to bring these fans closer to our club is very exciting for us," Richard Arnold, Manchester United commercial director, said in a statement. "This is also the first time we have teamed up with a U.S. automotive partner and with the growing popularity of the club and English football in America, we are hoping the relationship will allow us to further expand our fan base in the country.”
Under the deal, the Chevrolet "bow tie" 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 said that Chevy dealers worldwide would be able to use the Manchester United logo at their dealerships.
This summer, Chevrolet will sponsor two Manchester United matches in China, under the banner Chevrolet China Cup. Industry analysts said that GM is a market share leader in China.
"This is the first time we will play for the Chevrolet China Cup and I think it marks a fantastic start to what we hope to be a long relationship with Chevrolet," David Gill, Manchester United CEO said in a statement.
According to Gill, “Although part of two very different industries, Chevrolet and Manchester United share many of the same values. Like the Club, it is steeped in history having recently celebrated its centenary and it has also grown to be a global brand, selling cars in more than 140 countries. Above all, it too strives to be the best in its field and I am delighted to welcome Chevrolet as our official automotive partner.”
In a separate but related deal, Chevrolet unveiled three-year partnership with the One World Futbol Project, creators of the One World Futbol, whose goal is to donate 1.5 million "virtually indestructible" soccer balls to youth in war-stricken zones, refugee camps, disaster areas and other disadvantaged communities worldwide. The organization was founded in 2010 with was was called "crucial early support from world-renowned musician Sting."