Chevrolet Stokes Soccer Fever As Key Platform For Global Branding – Forbes

Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chevrolet  has produced a flash of soccer-related marketing that is streaking like a mean header toward General Motors’ General Motors’ goal of globalizing the brand. The launch of the $70-million Manchester United jersey deal and Chevy’s role in World Cup fever are ratcheting the brand significantly closer to its goal of universal ubiquity.

Outside of Europe, that is. Even as GM withdraws Chevrolet from Europe so that it doesn’t compete with Opel and Vauxhall there, company executives are counting on the England-based Manchester United soccer franchise to help vault Chevy to worldwide awareness. Man U says its global fan base is almost 700 million people, nearly half of whom live in the Asia-Pacific region that has become crucial to Chevrolet’s expansion plans.

“Man U provides a global stage for our brand, in particular in markets where we want to grow,” Chevrolet CMO Tim Mahoney told me. “Early last decade, virtually all Chevrolet sales were in the United States. Now, more than 60 percent of them are somewhere else.”

Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa are shown wearing the 2014-2015 Manchester United shirt with the Chevy logo.

Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa are shown wearing the 2014-2015 Manchester United shirt with the Chevy logo.

Thus the focus on the Man U deal, which now has put the Chevy golden bowtie on the jerseys of soccer icons such as Wayne Rooney — hallowed brand real estate that has been occupied officially only by four other brands before Chevrolet.

This month Chevrolet launched a global campaign around the long-in-the-making sponsorship that includes a web site where visitors can sign up to get one of the shirts and a video that looks at the history of Man U shirts stretching back to the Nineteenth Century. There also was an app by which fans could submit their likeness to be on a Man U virtual jersey on the first day.

Soon after the end of the World Cup in Brazil, Chevy also is bringing the Man U team to the United States to play the L.A. Galaxy at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles in the new Chevrolet-branded shirt. Then in August the team comes to the University of Michigan’s “Big House” stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., to play Real Madrid in a sold-out venue.

“When we looked at globalizing the brand,” Mahoney said, “Man U provides a global stage that is effective even in the United States.”

Chevy also has competed vigorously during the World Cup season with the dozens of other big brands that have gotten slices of the rapt attention around the tournament by hundreds of millions of fans worldwide. One ad that has played on Univision in the United States, for instance, illustrates how the passion for the game and the incumbent nationalism of the World Cup run from generation to generation — in this case father to daughter — and has run in contextually relevant matches featuring Argentina and Brazil.

“We’re on Univision now as much as Honda and Ford are,” Mahoney said. “It’s an important part of who we are, and it’s complementary to our Man U efforts.”

Chevy also is collaborating with an outfit called One World Futbol Project to donate and distribute 1.5 million nearly indestructible soccer balls to organizations working in developing communities. And Chevy and Man U said that “club legends” will be working with coaches and children in developing regions around the world, including in Bandung, Indonesia.

All of these soccer-related campaigns also are part of a much larger new initiative by Chevrolet, “What Do You #PlayFor?” It’s a social and digital effort that begins in earnest with all the attention around soccer this summer but is intended to be flexible and extendable to other sports-themed campaigns.

“The idea is to tap into the power of play,” Mahoney explained. “It’s a platform that fosters creativity and ingenuity. It works against soccer, motorsports, cricket, hockey and baseball. We wanted a platform that spanned all of those sports.”




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