“The way this was going to work over time, I would say that for the amount of money we were talking about, it was the biggest no-brainer I’ve ever seen,” Ewanick said at a J.D. Power marketing roundtable. The Manchester United deal, which GM has continued after Ewanick’s removal, was designed to give Chevrolet increased international exposure at a time when GM was seeking to make it a global brand. “We crunched more data than I’ve ever seen,” Ewanick said.
The exposure Chevy would get from the deal would be worth “over four times” the investment, says Ewanick. Think of Manchester United as the New York Yankees of the soccer world. In fact, Forbes ranks the U.K. team as the most valuable sports franchise in the world.
Though GM initially said Ewanick was fired because he “failed to meet the expectations the company has of an employee,” later rumors said that his ouster was because he hid the true cost of the $600 million deal through different marketing budgets.
Ewanick, who was brought in to GM to first run the automaker’s U.S. marketing operations in 2010, and then was quickly promoted to the newly-created chief marketing officer position, sought to consolidate GM’s roughly 125 individual marketing and sales departments into a larger global entity in an effort to save money, and run the company more efficiently. He ruffled a lot of feathers in that position, and once GM became profitable after its initial public offering, he noted a quick change in attitude from post-bankruptcy GM. “Right after the IPO, General Motors was immediately profitable, and I could see the attitude and the urgency in the room just go away,” he said.
Before that, Ewanick said there was a sense of urgency to change things at the automaker. “As soon as we were making money that changed,” he said. “It was like, ‘Oh no. We don’t want to do things that way. We have a way of doing things at General Motors,’ and it quickly reversed.”
Ewanick says he’s well aware of how difficult it is to change the culture at a company as big as GM, “It’s a labyrinth of departments so I think it’s difficult. I think they’ll get there. I just think everybody’s realizing that it’ll take a lot longer to get there than they anticipated because it’s so big.”
Though he was rather publically ousted from his position at GM, Ewanick says he has no hard feelings toward his former employer.