DETROIT (AP) — General Motors is preparing to announce a marketing deal between Chevrolet and the Manchester United soccer club.
A deal with Manchester United would be significant for Chevrolet. The club claims to be the most popular sports franchise in the world. Its fan base has doubled in the past five years to 659 million people — nearly one-tenth of the world's population.
GM wouldn't give details about the announcement, but said it has scheduled a press conference with the United Kingdom-based soccer club on Thursday in Shanghai, the center of GM's largest sales market. GM's marketing chief also will announce a "global sports marketing initiative" in Detroit on Thursday morning.
The announcements could also allay concerns about GM's broader marketing strategy. Earlier this month, the company said it would not advertise during the Feb. 3 Super Bowl because of a steep price increase demanded by CBS, the network broadcasting the game. The announcement came just after GM decided to pull $10 million in ads from Facebook, saying they weren't effective.
GM, however, will keep Facebook pages for its cars and trucks, as well as brands, it has said. Facebook pages for businesses or brands — like Facebook pages for people — are free. It's the marketing services — links in people's newsfeeds or ads to the right of the newsfeed — that cost money.
The changes, which involve two of the largest audiences in the U.S., brought criticism from the advertising and auto industries. It left many wondering about GM's strategy. The Super Bowl audience would have been a perfect for the company, which will introduce new pickup trucks next year.
But a deal with Manchester United has potential. Most of the club's fans live in emerging markets, according to a survey taken for the club by the research firm Kantar. The club claims to have 325 million fans in Asia and 173 million in Africa and the Middle East. It also has 90 million fans in Europe and 71 million in the Americas. The U.S. alone has 34 million fans, the club says.
GM plans to spend $4.5 billion globally on advertising this year, the same amount as last year.
Manchester United, which is owned by the American Glazer family, lost the Premier League title to Manchester City this year. But the club still is a record 19-time English champion.
The Kantar survey came from responses of 54,000 people in 39 countries. A similar survey in 2007 indicated that Manchester United had 333 million fans, based on 27,000 responses.