From 1986-2013, Sir Alex Ferguson reigned terror on the English Premier League as manager of Manchester United. In that time, he won 13 EPL Championships, and two UEFA Championships. His success turned Man U into a global force, with fans stretching from Seattle to Shanghai, let alone the United Kingdom. The team has grown to be the third-richest soccer (football) club in the world, with €395.9 million in revenue last year, and second most valuable sports team in the world in 2013, valued at $3.165 billion, behind Spanish team Real Madrid. Lastly, the British club is reported to have a fan base of an estimated 659 million people. More than twice the population of the United States.
Since Ferguson’s retirement, however, Manchester United seems to be in a flux. Newly appointed manager David Moyes hasn’t been able to carry the momentum of his fellow Scotsman, and the Red Devils currently rest in seventh place in the EPL. The team is currently in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Championship tournament, poised to play a strong Olympiakos twice; first in Greece on Feb 25 and then in Old Trafford on March 19, where Olympiakos could win its first game on British soil since basically ever. That would quickly spell elimination for The Red Devils. And come next year, it’s not looking like Man U will make it into the UEFA Champions League because of its lackluster performance in the EPL, unless it can manage to finish out the season in fourth place.
What does this mean for Chevrolet’s $600 million partnership? Simply put, a huge decrease in exposure. The UEFA Champions League is widely considered the highest level of soccer competition in the world, and is broadcast all over the world. Yes, even America.
While the EPL remains the most watched soccer league in the world, at an estimated reach of 643 million household televisions across 212 countries, the Champions League accounts for 360 million viewers, and A-list competition with renown teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, and Chelsea. And instead of playing among the elites, Man U’s current efforts will only manage to place the team in the UEFA Europa League tournament instead of the Champions League. Or in other words, it would be like sending Kobe Bryant to the NBA D-League. Gone would be the prestige, the viewers, and more than likely the fair-weather fans, making Chevrolet’s controversial $600 million marketing investment into Man U look like that much more of a money pit.
GM pulling Chevy out of the European market doesn’t help, either.