Q&A: Chevrolet Finds New Roads Worldwide

Chevrolet-BHe's officially interim CMO at General Motors, but it's not so interim now that Alan Batey has been on the job since last summer, having taken over after Joel Ewanick, now consulting for Fisker and others, left. In Part One of a two-parter with Marketing Daily, Batey talks about Chevrolet's deal with Manchester United, the new "Find New Roads" Chevrolet tagline, and how to make global marketing both consistent around the world and meaningful in local markets.

Q: How has the sponsorship program with Manchester United worked out so far? 

A: There was a huge game (Jan. 12 and 13) when Manchester United played Liverpool in the premiership. That was great for us -- but honestly, we are learning. We activated un Sunday with onsite sales promotions and also with promotions in Asia around the game, and we are learning as we go. 

Q: How big is Manchester United in Asia?

A: Remember, the rest of the world outside of the U.S. is soccer nuts. They estimated on Sunday that 550 million people tuned in to watch the game. What's the Super Bowl? One hundred fifty maybe? So you can see the scale. It was huge, massive. Also, in many of the countries [where Chevrolet has a footprint],  the brand has only been present for a decade or so, so on an unaided awareness perspective -- in these countries -- we still have a lot of work to do. Being on the shirts of one of the most famous sporting teams gives you that brand awareness, and that's why Manchester United was such a good idea for us.

Q: How have you been activating against this relationship?

A: Obviously, the soccer fan base is an enthusiast fan base, a little like NASCAR here in the U.S. and other sports, so we have the ability to use digital to really connect with these people: [The weekend of the Liverpool game] we brought the two teams togethe, and using a split screen, showed half a face from Manchester and half a face for Liverpool, each talking about the rivalry and about how each team gets the best out of each other. So we are able to connect in very creative ways, not just in above the line TV advertising. We are really using the digital space. Our positioning with Chevrolet is about connecting with the fans, so we are constantly thinking about what content we can bring them that's exciting because they want to get behind the scenes.

Q: Chevrolet now is bigger outside the U.S. than inside. There's obviously China, but where are the other growth opportunities?

A: That's right -- if you go back about a decade, we were primarily a U.S. sales company with overseas operations. If you look today, 65% of our business comes from outside the U.S. So while we do well in the U.S., we are really growing globally. The BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China), is where all of the growth has come from in the past six or seven years, so we are well established there.

Q: Why does the new tagline resonate better than "Chevy Runs Deep"? 

A: Obviously, here in the U.S. where the brand is over 100 years old, "Chevy Runs Deep" was great for our centennial, which was a massive event. But we sell in 140 countries and the road is something everyone has; the road is a common language. The words are flexible and simple and they do not polarize, so I use the analogy: you can imagine what "Find New Roads" could mean to both a full-size pickup owner and a Volt owner. They are so very different but both looking for ingenuity, forward thinking, and innovative product that is really about them and meets their needs. 

So "Chevy Runs Deep" worked really well in the U.S. for the centennial. But it's very difficult to bring that alive when you're in an Indian market, where your share is still quite small and the brand doesn't have that unaided awareness. And I also see this as much about globalization of Chevrolet from an internal perspective. "Find New Roads" gives [employees] a north star in terms of what it means to our culture, our product, what we do every day. It's built around this idea of ingenuity.

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