Ewanick Talks About His Ouster From GM
We can add another notch to the “Joel Ewanick Disaster Timeline” that Business Insider put together in July 2012 after General Motors “ousted” its short-tenured global marketing chief over what was reported to be an internal flap involving his “failing to properly vet the financial details,” as the Wall Street Journal put it, of a sponsorship deal with Manchester United.
Speaking for the first time since he was yanked mid-game from the pitch for, as a spokesman told Automotive News, “fail[ing] to meet the expectations the company has of an employee,” Ewanick defended the deal with Manchester United as “the biggest no-brainer I’ve seen.” He admitted that he was forewarned that he’d make people “cranky” at the behemoth automaker and maintained that he “harbors no resentments about how his time at General Motors ended,” as Ryan Beene reports in Automotive News and its sister publication, Ad Age.
Ewanick was speaking with J.D. Power president Finbarr O'Neill at the company’s Automotive Marketing Roundtable in Las Vegas late Tuesday afternoon.
“Ewanick said it was clear that the [MU] deal would bring Chevrolet increased brand exposure, purchase consideration and awareness around the world worth ‘over four times’ the sponsorship's cost, which sources have pegged at $600 million over seven years,” Beene writes.
“We crunched more data than I’ve ever seen,” Ewanick said, according to the soccer blog, Goal.com. “We had three separate media and consulting firms take a look at it and tell us what they thought it was worth. We had the internal GM team do it.”
But GM management, which was reciting a mantra of “change, change, change” when it hired the hard-charging marketer, reverted to type once it began to emerge from its financial doldrums, Ewanick indicated.
“Right after the IPO General Motors was immediately profitable, and I could see the attitude and the urgency in the room just go away,” Ewanick said, Beene reports. “As soon as we were making money, that changed. 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.”
“General Motors hired Joel Ewanick to shake up its marketing, then fired him when he shook too hard,” is the way Ward’s Auto’s Steve Finlay summarizes the two-year contest of conflicting mindsets in his lede. Indeed, as Goal.com points out, “the United sponsorship is one of the few major initiatives from Ewanick’s tenure that has remained in place at GM.”
Forbes contributor Michael Lee, a “Brit in the U.S. and soccer fan,” writes that NBC Sports’ new $250 million English Premier League venture may not only vindicate Ewanick’s deal with Manchester but might also, a few years hence, “become a case study of marketing genius.” It was a “brave and incisive,” he says, and could put Chevy “on the global stage with one simple, dramatic move.”
Finlay reports that, according to Ewanick, “it wasn’t just one organizational dispute that that did him in at GM. Instead, he cites a general pushback as he tried to usher in major changes ...”
Not that he wasn’t forewarned, admittedly, that there would be resistance.
“Mentors said, ‘When you go there, you are going to get fired,’” Ewanick told O’Neill. “We rented a house for two years. When you are a change agent, trying to break glass, you’re going to get people cranky.”
Before GM, Ewanick, was VP of marketing at Hyundai North America, where he “helped the brand rank as one of only three automakers to post sales increases during the auto market implosion of 2009,” according to his bio for the J.D. Power event. “That year, Forbes magazine named Mr. Ewanick Chief Marketing Officer of the Year and Brandweek honored him as Grand Marketer of the Year.”
Previously, he was CMO at Nissan North America; senior executive at The Richards Group; lead consultant at the Monitor Group; and head of marketing at Porsche Cars North America as general manager. He is currently president and managing partner at Global Auto Systems, a “self-described consulting, research and information provider to the global auto industry,” as Ward’s Auto’s Christie Schweinsberg puts it.
The 2012 Business Insider piece that chronicles Ewanick’s rise, stumbles and fall ends with the observation, “We may never know the real reason Ewanick left. One thing is for sure — his tenure wasn't boring.”
Another thing that’s for sure — he has not lost his touch for straight talk that generates headlines.