automaker sees good sales potential for its Chevy

## ## Manchester United sponsorship deal

DETROIT One bad season for Manchester United has not shaken General Motors’ belief in its $559 million (415 million euro) sponsorship deal with the English soccer club.

The logo of Chevrolet, GM’s global volume brand, appeared on players’ jerseys for the first time last Wednesday, when United beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 7 to 0 in a friendly match at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

That result will have been welcome to Chevy’s top marketing executive, Tim Mahoney. The club’s failure to win any trophies last year or even to qualify for Europe’s major tournaments this year has significant implications for TV visibility, leading some sponsorship experts to conclude that GM has overpaid, particularly as GM has announced it will stop Chevy sales in Europe at the end of 2015.

But GM executives have repeatedly stressed the real strength of the deal is in helping it connect positively with United’s massive fan base in Asia, a region where the No. automaker sees good sales potential for its Chevy brand.

GM also is not the only sponsor fully committed to the New York Stock Exchange listed business/sport enterprise. Earlier this month Adidas of Germany signed a 10 year, 1 billion euro sportswear deal with United.

Chevy’s deal goes well beyond putting its name on the team’s shirts. To connect with the club’s estimated 659 million fans worldwide it is also developing online relationships with them, especially in key markets such as China. Chevy has a dedicated Web site to do this and it also plans to introduce a series of digital applications for wireless devices.

“We’re buying into the brand,” Mahoney said in an interview at the company’s Detroit headquarters. “Any great brand has a whole history and a heritage behind it. That video has already been viewed more than 3.5 million times.

Other attempts at cementing the relationship between the Chevy and United, included the offer of test drives and United themed events, such as face painting and soccer obstacle courses, at the match with the Galaxy this week. GM will do the same next month when United plays the reigning European champions, Spain’s Real Madrid, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Reflecting its commitment to engagement with soccer, last March GM also launched a global marketing campaign, “What Do You PlayFor,” that includes soccer clinics for children.

When United plays its opening Premier League game on Aug. 16 at its home field, Old Trafford, GM will place advertisements globally to emphasize the partnership, including ones in Mandarin within the stadium itself. The company also will bring 11 children from target markets such as China, India and Indonesia onto the famous pitch.

GM is not the only automaker attracted to Manchester soccer clubs. Earlier this month Japan’s Nissan signed a deal, reportedly worth about 20 million pounds (25 million euros), with United’s local rival, Manchester City.

That five year partnership will tie Nissan name not just to the 2013 2014 English Premier League champions but also to sister teams in the USA and Australia.

That means a postseason in November

Lots of ideas floating around to salvage the season

Q: Hey Mr. Neal. I’ve been wondering about the baseballs. Was there any sign in the abbreviated spring training that another big home run year was in the making for MLB? Andy Froelich, Park Rapids

A: I didn’t notice anything substantial, but have read elsewhere where some players have wondered if the balls were not as lively as in 2019. I needed more games to arrive at a conclusion, since the Twins didn’t have the primary weapons on the field at once. Looking back at last year, the Twins hit at least 50 homers in each of the first five months of the season before dipping to 39 in the final month, so we will find out right away how the ball is acting. I will point out that Trevor Larnach had no problems hitting three spring homers, and Nelson Cruz had three homers in eight games.

Q:. If the league were to resume in AZ in empty ballparks, how would MLB handle the lower levels of minor leagues? I am assuming they would have to have expanded rosters, but there is always so much movement between the minors and majors. Do you think it would be the case that the entire 40 man roster would be in camp and available if needed in case of an emergency or injury? Trevor Trombley, South St. Paul.

A: Trombley is a legacy name in these parts! There have been two reports about playing in spring training locales, once games can be played, and it’s a lock that rosters will be expanded. But there’s been nothing about how it affects minor league teams. There is some concern that a number of low level teams have already suffered enough losses to be unable to play this season, which would upset the minor league system. And that would be sad for so many cities in which baseball ties the community together. Many minor league teams, also, can’t afford to have games played in empty stadiums, which likely would happen.

Q: If the baseball season is cancelled this year, how does that affect players in their final year of contracts? Specifically, what do you think happens to Nelson Cruz? Will he keep playing? Dan Chang, Woodbury.

A: Indications are that Cruz will want to play in 2021, and I would not be surprised if the Twins look to bring him back for another season because of his influence in the clubhouse. It certainly looked like there was some pop left in his bat, but you never know when an again player will hit that wall. As Phil noted recently, contracts will not be tolled if there is no season. Cruz’s contract will expire after this season regardless, making him a free agent. Phil addressed it in his story. Pineda has to serve his suspension this year, but won’t have to if there is no baseball in 2020. Since he missed the playoffs in 2019, he can play in the postseason this year, provided he serves the final 39 games of his 60 day suspension for failing a drug test. Torii Hunter owns a barbeque restaurant. Brian Dozier likes cigars and bourbon. Eddie Guardado has a ridiculous stogie collection. Lots of candidates, but it would be a tie between two of the all time great guys that I have covered, Michael Cuddyer and Brad Radke. Maybe I’m being more hopeful than confident, but it seems like we have bought in to what needs to be done to slow the virus. I’m dreaming of two to three weeks of training in June and an opening on July 4. If they play through October and mix in doubleheaders, Major League Baseball should be able to get more than 100 games in. That means a postseason in November. If the Twins reach the postseason in that format, look for them to play games in Texas or Florida. My guess is that July games would be played without fans, but it’s all about getting as much TV revenue as teams can at this point.

Q: How long for pitchers to get game ready? 2 weeks, 3 weeks? Or do team go with pitchers and short outings at first? If so, then staffs need to be expanded. 12. On March 11, Jose Berrios was just getting to the point where he could throw more than 70 pitches in a games. Expanded rosters will definitely help starters as they build endurance without risking injury, but they will need two to three weeks on a throwing program to prepare for any season. Pitchers are trying to stay loose right now, but it’s hard to build arm strength when you don’t know what date to aim for . that’s rough.

Photo of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton by Anthony Souffle

## ## La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts.

Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

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