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GM Fires Global Marketing Chief Over Soccer Sponsorship Deal


The ouster of General Motors Co’s (GM.N) global marketing chief is related to a hugely expensive sponsorship deal with England’s Manchester United soccer club for which GM is paying twice as much as the team’s previous automotive sponsor.

On Monday, GM, the biggest U.S. automaker, announced its Chevrolet brand would sponsor the hugely popular club’s shirts for the next seven years. The deal is worth $60 million to $70 million a year and includes a $100 million activation fee that brings the total value to as much as $600 million, said a person with knowledge of the contract who asked not to be identified.

By comparison, insurance broker Aon Plc (AON.N) pays about $31 million a year for the current jersey sponsorship, which runs through the 2013-2014 season.

GM did not disclose financial terms of its agreement, which was announced the day after the Detroit company said it was removing its global marketing chief Joel Ewanick because he “failed to meet the expectations that the company has for its employees.” Sources told Reuters Ewanick didn’t properly report financial details about the jersey deal.

Another source said the wording of the affected deal terms was changed before the deal was made public on Monday. The persons requested anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss contract details.

GM, which spent almost $4.5 billion on advertising last year, announced another sponsorship deal with Manchester United in May. GM said then it wanted to tap in to Manchester United’s estimated 659 million fans around the world to boost the image of the automaker’s Chevy brand, especially in Asia. GM last week also said it signed a four-year auto sponsorship deal with Manchester United rival Liverpool.

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