Investors, analysts, and media have been less than shy in their open skepticism concerning GM’s ability to take its recent success in the U.S. to the global stage. Sure GM can reinvent itself in America, but that’s easy, right? America is its home base.
Spectators watching this underdog have continued to point out that without a global consumer base, GM’s “comeback kid” behavior will be short-lived. So what is GM’s plan to win over global consumers in markets like Asia and Europe? Will they even try? After all, going global is expensive and comes with a lot of risk to a company that is still financially fragile.
Then, as if the spotlight weren’t hot enough, GM signaled an unconventional and seemingly less than global move, by cutting its Facebook ad budget. With Facebook’s global scale and reach, why would GM pull away from this digital platform? The company explained that it would take its $10 million dollar/year Facebook ad budget and put it towards other marketing efforts.
For those predicting where this new investment might be, could they possibly imagine 1.5 million soccer balls? Before we go there . . .
As you may have seen, GM recently opened its marketing playbook, and to the surprise of many, demonstrated that GM’s thinking is not reflective of a “made in the USA” kind of company at all. In fact, the way they explained their new marketing initiative could inspire a loud “touché” to the critics doubting GM’s ability to make a savvy global play.
In announcing it’s new sponsorship of what most would argue is the world’s most popular soccer team, Manchester United
, GM CMO Joel Ewanick explained to Automotive News
magazine, “Manchester offers an exposure opportunity unmatched by any U.S. sports franchise.” Ewanick explained there are an estimated 3.5 billion soccer fans worldwide — half of the world’s population — vs. about 400 million people who follow the National Football League, and Manchester sells more team jerseys than all 32 NFL teams combined.
So….who wants to buy a Super Bowl ad?
In addition to the access to a global stage through Manchester, GM added what feels like an overt wink to the critical need for a foot in the Asian market. Its sponsorship will included a new Chevrolet China Cup
to be held in two major Chinese cities as part of the 2012 soccer schedule. What better way to start to win over the Chinese consumer than to make China the proud host of a new China Cup? Can you say, “Beijing welcomes you?
” Watch it here>
And in case the flash of sports marketing with the world’s most popular sport and presence in the world’s biggest market was't enough for the average U.S. company looking for global expansion, GM made a move, which to me, indicates its true understanding of what it takes to be a global brand.
As part of the new sponsorship, GM has partnered with One World Futbol Project, which brings what are basically indestructible soccer balls to war-torn regions in the world, and GM has committed to provide 1.5 million soccer balls over three years to disadvantaged communities around the globe.
And while this may seem like a tack-on to the deal or a nice-to-have, any brand that has truly studied the European and Asian consumer knows that the social expectations for companies doing business in these markets, especially China, are much higher (2011 Cone/Echo global CR opportunity).
This partnership shows that GM is smart enough to realize that a self-serving sponsorship will go down much better with a spoonful of goodwill and support for a cause committed to the true passion for the sport.
So eliminating $10 million a year of Facebook advertising, gives GM $30 million over three years, and at $25 a soccer ball, that gives GM very close to its 1.5 million soccer balls committed. And in return, thousands of communities who will “like” GM and its branded soccer balls.
In terms of making a concerted and fresh move into the global stage, GM’s new marketing initiative feels likes a “GOOOOAAAAL!” However, time will tell whether GM’s full strategic marketing plan can raise the company into the elite global auto player club. But if GM's marketing department continues to be in-tune with the consumers they aspire to have holding the keys to a new Chevy, I’d place my bets on GM.