Manchester United Reveal GM Shirt Sponsorship Biggest in Soccer History

By Community | August 6, 2012

Manchester United have revealed their General Motors sponsorship will generate $559 million through 2021.

As part of a deal to become the soccer team’s exclusive shirt sponsor starting in the 2014 season, GM will pay about $18.6 million in fees for each of the seasons this year and next, according to a filing on the weekend. GM will pay $70 million in 2014, with the payments rising 2.1 percent each following season, the soccer club’s filing said.

GM, the world’s top-selling automaker, ousted Joel Ewanick, its chief marketing officer, after company officials questioned the propriety of the Manchester United deal, people familiar with the matter have said. Ewanick resigned because he didn’t “meet the company’s expectations of an employee,” according to an e-mailed statement by GM on July 29.

Ewanick’s departure places greater pressure on GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson, who has overseen several senior leadership changes at the automaker. Ewanick had announced marketing moves aimed at saving $2 billion over five years as part of Akerson’s push to improve operating margins.

Manchester United’s deal comes as the soccer team seeks to raise as much as $333 million in a U.S. initial public offering much to the dismay of supporters.

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) have even called for a boycott of United’s sponsors.

“The boycott strategy is intended to send a loud and clear message to the Glazer family and club sponsors that without the support and purchasing power of the fans – the global strength of the Manchester United brand doesn’t actually exist,” MUSt said in a statement.

MUST has accused the American Glazers of hurting the team’s performance by saddling it with debt in a 790 million pound ($1.23 billion) takeover in 2005.

It has also been angered after the Glazers said they would raise up to $167 million themselves in the flotation after initially saying all the proceeds would be used to cut the debt.

“It is hoped sponsors will put pressure on the Glazer family to reconsider their plans,” MUST added.

United have more than 70 commercial partners around the world.