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Chevrolet Announcing Deal With Manchester United Following Exit From Super Bowl Advertising

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Chevy is teaming up with Manchester United in an attempt to woo buyers around the world. | AP

General Motors is expected to announce on Thursday that Chevrolet will serve as a sponsor of the Manchester United soccer team, just two weeks after it stated it would stop advertising in the Super Bowl.

The company plans to make the announcement simultaneously in Detroit and Shanghai, where Manchester United is hugely popular. The team, owned by the same family that holds the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, released a survey on Tuesday showing that it has 659 million fans worldwide, including 325 million in Asia.

The deal is apparently part of Chevy's push to become more of a worldwide brand, and one that's known to the team's fans, estimated to number 71 million in North America, 90 million in Europe, and 173 million in Africa and the Middle East.

Its advertising has projected Chevrolet as an iconic American brand. In the 1980s, its tagline was "Heartbeat of America." In the mid-2000s, "An American Revolution" became the new tagline. Such Chevy ads, which have featured brightly colored Chevy cars and big blue skies, have been considered effective at grabbing consumer attention.

But the move to sponsoring soccer shows how serious GM is about drawing a global following.

Manchester United pulls players from all over the globe, primarily from European countries but also from Mexico as well as throughout the Caribbean, Africa and even South Korea. Man U, as the team is commonly known, was the first professional team of David Beckham.

Chevrolet has made several radical advertising decisions this month, including pulling advertising from Facebook just days before the social network company staged its IPO. And a few days later, the carmaker announced it was ceasing advertising in the Super Bowl.

"We understand the reach the Super Bowl provides, but with the significant increase in price, we simply can't justify the expense," said Joel Ewanick, GM's global chief marketing officer, in a statement announcing the Super Bowl change.

It's unclear how much GM will spend to sponsor Manchester United.

Two months ago, GM turned to a new advertising agency called Commonwealth, a partnership between Goodby Silverstein & Partners and McCann Erickson Worldwide. This came after it dropped its former agency, Campbell-Ewald, which held the account for decades.

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