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With its controversial $600 million sponsorship of English soccer giant Manchester United in hand, Chevrolet is bringing the soccer team home to Michigan this summer to host a match.
It will be part of the 2014 Guinness International Champions Cup and will be played at the University of Michigan's 109,000-seat football stadium Aug. 2 against Real Madrid.
Manchester United will be wearing uniforms bearing the Chevrolet bowtie during the game. The automaker's seven-year sponsorship of the club begins on July 1.
The match in Michigan Stadium and uniform partnership comes at a time when Chevrolet is virtually non-existent in Europe and promoting the brand would compete against General Motor's Vauxhall and Opel brands. But according to a team survey, Manchester United's fan base is 659 million people, nearly half of whom live in the Asia-Pacific region. Chevy wants to gain exposure in those markets.
"Chevrolet's partnership with Manchester United is more than a shirt sponsorship," Chevy's U.S. marketing boss Paul Edwards said in a statement today. "It's about sharing the power of play and passion for this sport with fans around the world."
But the sponsorship so far has been largely viewed as a marketing fiasco for General Motors. It was the brainchild of former GM marketing boss Joel Ewanick in 2012, who was dismissed in July of that year by then-CEO Dan Akerson in part for how he handled the financial details of the sponsorship. Since then, GM has announced plans to withdraw the Chevrolet brand from Europe to focus on Opel/Vauxhall.
Beyond the disconnect between Europe and Chevrolet, Manchester U's 2013 season also was a disaster, with infighting in the locker room, second-guessing from the English media, indecision about starting lineups and losses to lesser clubs. Despite a star-studded lineup, Manchester United is on the ropes, currently swooning in a distant seventh place.
With payroll concerns mounting, Manchester U may have to start selling off its prized players and begin a rebuilding cycle.
Mark Rechtin contributed to this report.