Shortly before 9 a.m. on the day after the worst night of his life, Rikk Wilde got the phone call from his big boss at General Motors.
Yes, he committed a nationally televised major league blooper while presenting pickup truck keys to the World Series MVP. No, he wouldn’t be fired. Now get out there and sell some trucks.
The call, from Chevrolet vice president Brian Sweeney, had to be a relief for Wilde, who makes his living as a zone manager and sales, service and marketing liaison between GM and its Kansas City area dealers.
“The Chevy leadership team called and told him he did nothing wrong,” said Michael Albano, the brand’s top spokesman. “It’s all good. Everyone here has his back.”
In fact, the stumbling moments appear to have earned millions in free publicity for the Chevrolet brand — an estimated $2.4 million in media exposure, according to Front Row Analytics. Bloomberg reported that is six times the $392,000 worth of attention that an ordinary presentation would have brought in.
Comments about the presentation lit up Twitter, and several video captures hit YouTube.
GM had lined up Wilde, a lifelong Royals fan, for the postgame presentation because he’s a good employee and loves baseball. There was hope that he’d be giving the keys to a Chevrolet Colorado to someone on the home team. But instead it went to San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner.
Wilde had practiced for the moment, an effort to draw attention to GM’s newest product, and brought notes just in case he forgot something.
When Fox Sports announcer Erin Andrews introduced him, he was sweating. As he started to say his lines, he became breathless. He stumbled and had to look to his notes. He ad-libbed a line that would bring guffaws on social media: “technology and stuff.”
Here’s the transcript of Wilde’s delivery:
“Madison, congratulations. As the official sponsor or, uh, the official vehicle of Major League Baseball, Chevrolet is proud to participate in this, uh, prestigious award. Um. Along with our dealers we are also extremely honored to give back to this sport, uh, by supporting baseball in cities and towns across this nation. At Chevrolet we have, um (pause for breath), we have also been proud of the latest and greatest, uh, technology in our truck lineup which is the all-new 2015, uh, Chevy Colorado. Um. It combines class-winning and leading, um, you know, technology and stuff with, uh, Wi-Fi powered by OnStar. It’s sitting there on the screen. To recognize your performance in this 2014 World Series, I proudly present to you your very own set of keys to a brand new 2015, uh, Chevy Colorado.”
Soon people were comparing Wilde to the late comedian Chris Farley, and #Technologyandstuff was trending on Twitter, as was #ChevyGuy.
“ChevyGuy is the most hilariously awkward person ever,” one person tweeted.
“Chevy really sold me on their new Colorados with that class leading technology and stuff and immediate recalls!!!” another tweeted, an obvious reference to GM’s safety problems. But then, Albano said, he noticed the sentiment starting to shift.
“We LOVE the #Chevyguy! Don’t change a bit #Wildeman!” wrote one tweeter.
“We saw quickly the ‘technologyandstuff' tagline kind of take off and start to trend,” Albano said. “That’s when you realize that you have something there that you might want to embrace.”
A GM statement said: “A lifelong Kansas City Royal fan, Rikk was still a little emotional over the outcome of a tremendous seven game series. We believe baseball fans in Kansas City and elsewhere can relate with Rikk’s authentic emotions.”
GM got a bigger chance to promote its re-entry into the small to midsize pickup truck business because Wilde drew so much attention to the usually forgotten MVP presentation.
By Thursday, Chevy was using #technologyandstuff on its official Colorado truck Web page.
“He was on message,” Albano said. “The truck has technology and stuff. We will use that term, and stuff.”
Albano said Wilde was “shellshocked” about the attention, and the company said he wasn’t available for follow-up interviews.
According to Wilde’s LinkedIn page, he’s a Louisburg, Kan., man who studied automotive engineering technology at Pittsburg State University and earned a master’s degree in management from Baker University.
Before Wilde was thrust onto the national stage, his presentation appearances appear to have involved bestowing Chevrolet service awards to technicians and others in the company’s south central region.
The Star’s Diane Stafford contributed to this report.