Following the conclusion of the World Series, which saw the San Francisco Giants walk away with a victory over the Kansas City Royals, Chevrolet set about its customary tradition of awarding the World Series Most Valuable Player — in this case, San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner — with a new vehicle — and in this case, a new Chevrolet Colorado pickup. And that’s about when things went slightly awry.
Upon presentation of the award to Bumgartner, a regional manager named Rikk Wilde thought he would commemorate the occasion with a small speech. Apparently not known for his superior oration, Wilde made a brief statement that was accentuated by the phrase “it combines class-winning and leading, um, you know, technology and stuff.”
Over the sound of Chevrolet’s collective public relations department slapping their foreheads in disbelief and perhaps agony, there was another, more subtle noise: the social media mavens scrambling about to turn those ripe lemons into lemonade. And boy, they succeeded.
Chevrolet’s quick response to embrace Wilde’s faux pas soon established an essentially free advertising campaign that garnered more attention that the actual act of giving the truck away ever could. Chevrolet immediately took control of the hastag #TechnologyandStuff on Twitter, incorporated the new slogan into its print ads, and as you can see, made it a center piece on the Colorado’s page of the Chevrolet website.
Reportedly, Wilde got a call from Brian Sweeney, who told him that it was all good, and he wasn’t going to be fired. “The Chevy leadership team called and told him he did nothing wrong,” Michael Albano, the brand’s top spokesman, told the Kansas City Star. “It’s all good. Everyone here has his back.”
That’s undoubtably a big relief for Wilde, who is the liaison between GM’s corporate unit in Detroit and the dealer network in the Kansas City area, but he unknowingly might have generated as much as $2.4 million in free media exposure as a result, when his remarks went viral.
GM noted in a separate statement that as “a lifelong Kansas City Royal fan, Rikk was still a little emotional over the outcome of a tremendous seven game series,” it said. “We believe baseball fans in Kansas City and elsewhere can relate with Rikk’s authentic emotions.”
Apparently not used to the national spotlight or subsequent attention, Wilde was “shellshocked” about the attention, and General Motors said that he wasn’t available for follow-up interviews, the Star reported. But he might have just sold more Colorados than Chevy could have hoped to move with its more traditional marketing tactics.