Manchester United has signed up Chevrolet as its new automotive partner in a five-year deal, with the club seeking to use the deal to boost its presence in North America and the company aiming to tap into United’s huge fan base to further establish itself as a global brand.
The agreement sees the General Motors-owned brand replace Audi in the role, with the German automotive giant last month agreeing a similar deal with United’s Barclays Premier League rival Chelsea. General Motors is hoping to benefit from United’s fan base, which was this week estimated at 659 million people, to boost its Chevrolet brand, especially in such growing Asia car markets as China, where the 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,” GM executive director of global marketing strategy, Paul Edwards, told Reuters. “Manchester United stands head and shoulders above the other teams in terms of scale, brand value and their legacy in the sport.”
GM’s decision to sponsor United comes after it last month elected to drop advertising from Facebook and next year’s broadcast of the National Football League’s Super Bowl. GM will not advertise during television coverage of the 2013 Super Bowl due to price increases put in place by the game’s broadcast rights-holder the CBS network. GM ran four adverts during NBC’s coverage of this year’s NFL showpiece game, with each 30-second slot costing around US$3.5 million.
CBS is reportedly seeking $4 million per spot for next year’s game. While Edwards maintained the decision to withdraw from the Super Bowl isn’t related to the United deal he outlined the difference in global impact of the two brands. When United played its ultimately title-deciding game against bitter rival Manchester City “that audience around the world scaled to 600 million people,” Edwards added to Bloomberg. “Compare that to the Super Bowl here in the States, which is roughly 110, 115 million, and you’re talking five times that audience watching one regular-season game. It’s significant.”
Commenting on the Chevrolet deal, Richard Arnold, United’s commercial director, said in a statement: “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. This is also the first time we have teamed up with a US 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.”