GM Fires Marketing Chief For Soccer Deal, Then Signs It

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
gm fires marketing chief for soccer deal then signs it

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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  • Spartan_mike Spartan_mike on Jul 31, 2012

    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.

  • RobertRyan RobertRyan on Jul 31, 2012

    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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