Magazine article Marketing

Profile: In the Driving Seat - Rob Smettem Marketing Director, Chevrolet UK

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: In the Driving Seat - Rob Smettem Marketing Director, Chevrolet UK

Article excerpt

Celebrity Love Island, ITV's reality dating show, has taken a lot of criticism recently, but it has at least one fan in the form of Rob Smettem, Chevrolet's UK top marketer.

It is probably not the sight of Abi Titmuss cavorting in a skimpy bikini with Rebecca Loos that is keeping Smettem smitten. He is watching it because he has just spent the best part of pounds 2m sponsoring the show.

Despite poor ratings, he claims the programme provides the perfect vehicle for the launch of the Chevrolet Matiz. 'Everyone is slating it, but 5m people watched it the Monday before last, and it was the fifth most-watched show on a Monday night this year,' he says.

The timing of the programme was perfect for Smettem, because it finishes on the day the Matiz launches. He also hints that he has not paid as much for the sponsorship as some might think. 'We were lucky because ITV was trying to keep the show a secret,' he says. 'The sponsorship came to the market late, so the value for money was quite strong.'

For Smettem, the overriding objective of the sponsorship is to ensure that people do not associate the Chevrolet brand with the big gas-guzzling cars on sale in the US. In Europe Chevrolet is the new name for Daewoo, and is positioned as a range of small, added-value cars

After Daewoo was declared bankrupt in 2002, General Motors bought the beleaguered brand, drafting in Smettem a year later from Ford's luxury marque Jaguar to rebuild the way it was perceived by consumers. Despite efforts to show that Daewoo was under new ownership, it proved too difficult to shake off its reputation as a lame duck, and in February it relaunched as Chevrolet.

For Smettem, 49, the path to Chevrolet and Celebrity Love Island began in 1979 in the finance department at Ford. He says he became fed up with 'counting money' and made the move across to the marketing department.

His first role was as import manager, overseeing US-built cars entering the UK, from which he soon moved to become a regional fleet manager in the North - a challenging role that he says gave him an education for his later career.

'At Ford, the North was anything above Oxford, including Northern Ireland and Scotland,' he says. 'But I enjoyed it and it was a great opportunity to meet the customer. …

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