By on July 31, 2012

One day after  GM’s  Chief Marketing Executive Joel Ewanick was fired for failing ” to meet the expectations that the company has for its employees,” one day after it was leaked like from a fire hose that there were shady going ons between Ewanick and the Manchester United soccer club, GM signed a seven year contract with just the same soccer club. A day after the ouster of a marketing chief who was tasked with saving billions, GM paid, according to Reuters,  “twice as much as the team’s previous automotive sponsor” for putting “Chevrolet” on the team’s jerseys. Does this pass the smell test?

Officially, no reason is given for Ewanick’s ouster, except for the both mean-spirited and hamfisted not meeting of expectations. Unofficially, dirt is being thrown after Ewanick.

“Sources” told Reuters that “Ewanick didn’t properly report financial details about the jersey deal.” In the business, those anonymous sources are nearly always inside the company, and in 9 out of ten cases, the source is a company spokesman who prefaced what he said to the reporter with a “don’t quote me on that, but …”

Other sources, this time “some industry officials” (code for people outside of the company) don’t buy the story:

“While GM would not discuss Ewanick’s departure, some industry officials said a deal as big as the Manchester United sponsorship agreements would have been signed by multiple executives. They also raised the possibility that GM simply wanted to dump Ewanick as the automaker’s U.S. market share has declined by nearly 2 points in the first half of 2012 compared with the year before to 18.1 percent.”

I don’t know how they do it at GM, but at every large corporation I know, the CEO is intimately involved in the decision and deal making that precedes a major sponsorship deal.   The CEO would be involved even more so when the company pays twice the going rate.

Oh, and what about the improper dealings? “The wording of the affected deal terms was changed before the deal was made public on Monday,” a source that was “not authorized to discuss contract details” (code: insider for sure) told Reuters.

I don’t know how they do it at GM, but at every large corporation I know, if there is a deal with an impropriety huge enough to fire the marketing chief, that deal won’t get signed, and the police will get called instead.

We have yet to know for what marketing disaster Ewanick was fired. The much bigger PR disaster stares us right into the eye.

Even the usually fiercely loyal Detroit Free Press won’t buy into the amateurish attempts at spin:

“Issues with soccer deals are just a diversion from the real reason Ewanick was forced to resign, his inability to maintain or increase market share under his leadership, say GM marketing officials and advertising leaders familiar with the company. They didn’t want to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak about personnel issues.”

“GM marketing officials and advertising leaders familiar with the company” would be code for second line managers who still have a job, and people at the Commonwealth agency that are bracing for the other shoe to drop.



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24 Comments on “GM Fires Marketing Chief For Soccer Deal, Then Signs It...”

  • avatar

    I find it perplexing that they sponsor both Man Utd and Liverpool. Why do they need two clubs from the same league? Also why do they feel the need to do both the shirt sponsorship as well as the “auto” sponsorship (which I think is the signage around the stadium) for Man Utd. Does seem a lot of money. The more that comes out the worse it seems for GM management.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      I know the following comment will draw flak from loyal fans, but…

      I would have chosen a more iconic European team like the Real Madrid or Bayern Munich instead of Liverpool.

      • 0 avatar

        The English Premier League is watched by more people around the world than either the Spanish or German leagues so sponsoring top English clubs must make sense to GM for that reason. Plus I believe they are making a push in UK with the Chevrolet brand. (My Dad recently bought one – I’m ashamed to admit it is the “Daewoo” Aveo – but he is happy with it so I guess that is OK.)

        Even though Liverpool has been struggling for the last 3 seasons they are still the most successful English club judged by trophies won and were in the Champions League final as recently as 2007 and won it in 2005. They have the biggest world-wide following bar Man Utd.

        In other words, Liverpool and Man Utd are plenty “iconic” enough.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “It’s like the last act of Titus Andronicus over at GM corporate headquarters.”

    “Why is all this executive turmoil happening now? … there are three theories. 1) GM CEO Akerson is panicking (Truth About Cars’ theory); 2) Akerson is kind of incompetent and hires people he then chases away or has to fire; 3) … I’m thinking of a third. … What’s the third? I know there’s a third. …”

    Mickey Kaus

    • 0 avatar

      The third is that GM’s corporate antibodies are attacking outside organisms. Apart from a few seats at the top, “New” GM is the same as old GM. All failure must be blamed on the outsiders, because it cannot possibly be the fault of General Motors. Because it is General Motors. The drop in market share cannot possibly be cars that are not as appealing to buyers as those of the competition. It is clearly the fault of the outsider who is not selling enough of them. Whether he was up to the job or not is secondary. He was not one of “us”.

  • avatar

    Its called acountability, something that was non exsistent at the old GM

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    All these half baked accusations. These GM sources make it sound like the guy is corrupt. Is it that bad? Or is the accusation “only” about honest mismanagement of duties?

    Or is Ewanick a scapegoat?

    If there is a story here it will come out eventually and GM is only prolonging bad publicity.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    In the field of management – as is with all fields – there are examples of the good and examples of the incompetent. However, GM, in their infinite ability to make a t*rd out of a gold bar, has not only reached, but has maintained the pinnacle of inept, cretinistic, and total lack of intellect management. That is, if we’re going to lower the definition bar of “management” such that it stoops to the level of the idiots that infest that company.

    Now that the gummit is involved, we can expect that we’ll have to initiate scientific notation to correctly catalog the level of idiocy that exists in that hobby company.

    May they rot in h….er…Chicago.


    Oh, and they can shove their products up their Obamas.

    • 0 avatar

      You know, your post was pretty good, save for the last couple of lines, which kind of undoes all the good of the rest. A little ranty, but fairly reasonably.

      Here’s a tip: if you want to be taken seriously in a debate, don’t use statements that my six-year-old is too mature to use.

      On that note: it’s kind of shame to see that the good work vis a vis dismissing much of GM’s dead wood, that the government, under Ed Whitacre’s auspices, had done during the reorganizaton, is potentially being undone.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        Exactly, and it is proof that the poster knows absolutely nothing about Chicago or Obama.

        Republicans have the concept of the RINO and if we allow that to exist then the Chicago Machine must be categorized as DINO. As a black man, Obama was not welcome in Chicago politics (his “place” would have been Cook County politics) and in fact his first success was to use Chicago Machine tactics against a Chicago Machine candidate. No, Chicago politics was reserved for Irish Catholics (Italian Catholics were acceptable but not preferred). When Hispanics became a large enough voting bloc, they too were deemed acceptable but only because they were Catholic and willing to vote for the Machine.

        And just to make it perfectly clear: In 2006, President Bush celebrated his 60th birthday by going out to dinner with Mayor Daley. My friend has photos of a Blackhawk landing on the southside lakefront bike path and President Bush hopping out and walking over to a waiting car.

  • avatar

    “Issues with soccer deals are just a diversion from the real reason Ewanick was forced to resign, his inability to maintain or increase market share under his leadership, say GM marketing officials and advertising leaders familiar with the company. They didn’t want to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak about personnel issues.”

    All GM had to say was “We appreciate everything Joel Ewanick has done, but GM and he have differing opinions on how to proceed and GM has decided to go a different direction. We are sure someone with his capabilities will suceed in a company where all parties are on the same page”.

    You insult the guy with a velvet hammer and move on. Everyone gets to save a bit of dignity and the story drops off the radar.

  • avatar

    “We have yet to know for what marketing disaster Ewanick was fired.”

    I doubt that there is any such disaster.

    When a corporation publicly trashes a departing senior employee as GM has in this instances, then there are two possible motivations: (a) he’s about to be charged with some sort of crime, or (b) he pissed somebody off.

    If it was (a), then you would have already heard rumors and rumblings about the allegations. But you haven’t. So that leaves you with (b).

    Odds are high that there’s some sort of personal vendetta. It may or may not be deserved, but whatever it is, there’s some sort of grudge match going on here, and it’s personal. If you want to find a plausible angle, that’s the one that you should be chasing.

    • 0 avatar

      “or (b) he pissed somebody off.”


    • 0 avatar

      Even if this firing is the result of a personal grudge, the handling of it has been extremely unprofessional. I’ve worked for a much smaller, regional company in another industry, and top management would never have said those things about a fired employee, and thus let the story spin out of control in the media.

      This story seems very strange, and gets more strange with each day…

      • 0 avatar

        “the handling of it has been extremely unprofessional”

        That lack of professionalism is the very thing that makes this appear to be personal. There is an element of bitterness and nastiness in the public remarks that suggests that the termination isn’t just about business.

  • avatar

    Other than the José Ignacio López de Arriortúa debacle, I can’t ever recall a high level Detroit car exec being badmouthed after getting fired. Now we have two in quick succession. Not only was Ewanik canned and dissed fairly publicly, Dave Lyons was walked out of the GM Tech Center by the design department’s HR director, Joseph Ofori-Agboka last Thur and Ed Welburn sent out an email saying that “effective immediately” Lyons was no longer a GM employee. Just two weeks ago Welburn hosted a going away party for Lyons as he prepared to leave for Germany that was described as warm and affectionate.

    This is highly irregular in a town where there’s plenty of backstabbing, but rarely is there public criticism of other industry insiders.

    This is complete conjecture but it’s almost as if someone at GM wants Ewanick and Lyons tainted and less desirable to other employers.

  • avatar

    I didn’t think the Chevy deal included getting the name on the jersey, which is why I was surpised at the $100 million or so price tag. The annual cost wasn’t much less than what Aon paid to have their name on the front of the jersey.

  • avatar

    I feel we are watching the shuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic. The very bad performance of GM in Europe is probably prompting a raft of changes. Should have done this prior to the crisis in Europe.

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