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Joe Favorito @joefav

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What: Portada New York included two sports marketing panels, featuring Portada Sports Marketing Board member and Allstate Director Consumer Marketing-Sponsorships, Daniel Keats, Comcast’s Hispanic Marketing Director Alejandro Solorio, Michael Neuman, EVP, Managing Partner, Scout Sports and Entertainment and Jon Patricof, president of the New York City Football Club.
Why it matters: Even though soccer is yet growing in the United States, marketers need to take advantage of the sports business potential of the event; the #PortadaNY panels offered interesting insights on the opportunities to look out for.

Tuesday may have been a dark and rainy day in New York, but it was filled with several bright moments around the business of soccer and engagement, especially with the Latino community.
Portada New York included a morning session centered on this past summer’s World Cup and the various ways brands, whether they were official partners or not, found ways to both engage and grow their soccer involvement. Portada Sports Marketing board member and Allstate (@AllstateDirector of Sports Marketing Daniel Keats and Comcast’s (@comcastHispanic Marketing Director Alejandro Solorio offered their thoughts in a great discussion.

Some key takeaways

Mexico fans at World Cup 2018 Credit: Soccer.ru

The passion of soccer in the U,S, is still evolving; you didn’t have to be a World Cup brand to realize the sports business potential of the event. We were not, yet we were able to find ways through our work with the Mexican National Team to take advantage of their success and expand our reach. We believe our programs are going to yield great benefits over time as we build the fan and consumer for life.” – Daniel Keats, Director Consumer Marketing-Sponsorships, Allstate Insurance

“Our investment in soccer is for the long-term, starting at the grassroots with programs like LIGA MX and Alianza de futbol, which creates professional and college opportunities for young Latino players. We think this is the right way to engage the Latino consumer, especially the family, over an extended period and will see our return over time.” – Daniel Keats, Director Consumer Marketing-Sponsorships, Allstate Insurance

All in all the message was clear for the morning: brands and media companies have found a path that works for them…

Solorio talked at length about Comcast’s technical innovations using video and data in the mobile space during the World Cup to provide custom viewing experiences for fans, but more importantly he was adamant that investing in the sport means establishing touch points not just around one massive event, but throughout the year.

The Portada Brand-Sports Summit in Los Angeles on March 15, 2019 (Hotel Loews Santa Monica) will provide a unique setting for brand marketers to learn about the opportunities sports and soccer content offers to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.

Soccer needs to be seen as a strategy not a tactic, you have to be immersed in the sport if you want to be seen as authentic, whether you are speaking to an Anglo or Latino consumer.” – Alejandro Solorio, Hispanic Marketing Director, Comcast Corporation

All in all the message was clear for the morning: brands and media companies have found a path that works for them, and it takes them right to the heart of the fastest growing demo in the U.S., the increasingly affluent and always engaged Latino consumer.

NYCFC grows its brand proactively

In a discussion between NYCFC President Jon Patricof and Michael Neuman, EVP, Managing Partner at Scout Sports and Entertainment, a division of Horizon Media (and Portada Sports Marketing Board member), the growth of NYCFC as a property in the crowded marketplace was quite evident. Not only is the club growing as it again heads towards the MLS Playoffs, but it is being a proactive leader in soccer in North America.

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Some key thoughts from Patricof:

Michael Neuman and Jon Patricof

The idea of relegation is somewhat overblown. If you look at the success of teams in the USL,  the teams that do well are getting the chance to move up to MLS which is the most important thing if you are a brand that is looking for growth.”

“We know that there are four million soccer fans in the New York area. Of the four million, only 280,000 we have identified as fans of NYCFC. Our job is to help convert the rest of that audience to engage with our team and brand. Once we have them at our matches at Yankee Stadium, we can convert them, but that takes time.”

“Soccer is at a very dynamic moment in time with regard to access. What the NFL, the NBA and other leagues have done is give the media and fans access to learn about the personalities of their Teams. That has not traditionally been done with our sport. As part of City Football, we are changing that. We create great content and events that tell the stories of our players and we give access to fans. It’s the best way to convert savvy soccer fans to join us, and we know that once they get that access they will stay for life.”

Are there still challenges ahead for all those who spoke on Tuesday? For sure, The uncertainty of where US Soccer is going, even with a World Cup coming to North America in 2026, as well as the continued fluidity of MLS (@MLS) (especially as NYCFC (@NYCFCstills searches  for a permanent home), as well as the increased presence of elite European clubs om the business environment in the US present some dark clouds for all, but for the most part, soccer remains a growth property in the U.S., and the ways brands, teams, media companies and even leagues will find ways to engage is still on the upswing. And provided some great learning experiences for all in attendance at Portada New York.

 

What: Nike debuted its Juntas Imparables campaign, step one of a long planned and multitiered play into the Mexican marketplace for Nike.
Why it matters: Juntas Imparables recognizes the fast-growing active young Latinas marketplace, and ties in a call for the cause of youth play.

The past few weeks the brand power of Nike (@Nikehas grown as it continues to show its edginess with the campaign that featured many athletes, especially Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7and Serena Williams (@serenawilliams); two hot buttons with media recently.

However not to be underestimated is the brands power to engage globally, and this past week they unveiled another powerful campaign targeted at the Latinas of Mexico.

The new, irreverent film and first Nike Women’s JDI campaign in Mexico, Juntas Imparables (“Unstoppable Together”), hit markets large and small last week to rave reviews.

The opening shots show the bustling streets of Mexico City, with an endless stream of cars frozen in traffic. Then a woman sprints by on a run, igniting a citywide rally cry that shows how the challenges of being female are no obstacle for those intent on achieving their goals. The film features cameos by top female Mexican athletes such as Nayeli Rangel, Mariana Juárez, Paola Morán, Alexa Moreno and Casandra Ascencio.

While the female consumer in the U.S. has long been a target for lifestyle campaigns, segmenting an activity into Mexico has been a missed step.

Juntas Imparables also coincides with a call to action: From September 10 through October 19, Mexican women can register a team of four to log workout minutes through the Nike Training Club (NTC) (@NikeTraining) App, Nike Run Club (NRC) (@NikeRunningor in face-to-face sessions at the Nike Women MX House. Teams can review progress via a scoreboard; the winning team will receive a one-year Nike sponsorship. Nike will also convert every minute registered into hours of play for kids through “Made To Play” and in collaboration with partnering organizations.

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“This is a great play for Nike on at least two fronts,” said Harrie Bakst, co-founder of Weinstein Carnegie, a firm that works directly with athletes, celebrities and brands in cause marketing. “First, it recognizes a fast-growing marketplace that many in the active wear space are missing, active young Latinas, especially in Mexico. Second, it ties in a call for cause, which gives those on the fence in participating a reason to engage in the fall, when maybe less activity is planned after a busy summer. It’s really smart and shows the expansive and aggressive power Nuke is taking in the marketplace.”

This will be step one of a long-planned and multitiered play into the Mexican marketplace for Nike, and is a natural step for the brand as the Mexican economy rises and brand value for companies becomes more intense. While the female consumer in the U.S. has long been a target for lifestyle campaigns, segmenting an activity into Mexico has been a missed step.

Nike, never one to miss an edgy step, take one here with a bold campaign that should get attention and drive new engagement.

What: At SportBusiness Summit in Miami, La Liga President Javier Tebas spoke up for the Girona-Real Madrid matchup in January, against some opposition from other organizations, including FIFA and MLS.
Why it matters: Tebas believes the match will lead to greater awareness for everyone and support for the sport overall.

“FIFA has no say in this match, and I can say with 90 percent certainty that La Liga clubs will be playing in Miami at the end of January.”

And so there it was on Tuesday in Miami that La Liga President Javier Tebas pushed back on FIFA’s Gianni Infantino and everyone else trying to stop the elite league from bringing its first-ever regular season match to the United States, and further proclaimed that La Liga (@LaLiga), and its partner Relevent Sports, are more open for business on this side of the Atlantic than ever before.

Tebas and Relevent’s Charlie Stillitano (@C_Stillitanowere the afternoon keynote speakers at SportBusiness International’s inaugural SportBusiness Summit (@SportBusinessbeing held at the W Hotel in Miami Beach. Tebas was clear in the intentions of the league and was very bullish on what the match will do not just for La Liga in the United States, but for the growth of soccer overall.

…[T]his is really the start of a 15 year joint venture between La Liga and Relevent in the U.S., [and] it will open the doors with new brands to engage, as well as potentially new media partnerships to grow.
Girona vs. Real Madrid (Wikimedia Commons/Politges13)

“This match has been many years in the making despite that people may think it just happened in the last few months,” Tabas said during a 30 minute conversation. “It is good not just for La Liga and the brand but for all soccer growth in North America. Are there obstacles to overcome? Yes and they were expected, but they will be and I can say with certainty the match (between Girona and Real Madrid) will be played on the 26th of January at 2:00 in the afternoon.”

The President also showed surprise at the rumors that Major League Soccer (@MLS) would oppose this one match, and even through the door open for a more reciprocal agreement to bring an elite MLS match…to Spain. “How could this one match hurt MLS? It will lead to more awareness for everyone. As a matter of fact, if MLS wanted to play a match in Spain we would not only encourage it, but we would help promote it because it’s good business for everyone.”

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From a business standpoint, Stillitano pointed out that many of the existing La Liga partners will be activating in Miami, and that since this is really the start of a 15 year joint venture between La Liga and Relevent in the U.S., that it will open the doors even new brands to engage, as well as potentially new media partnerships to grow.

“Because The Premier League has done such a good job of promotion to the U.S. audience, many casual fans do not fully yet understand the size and scope of what La Liga can bring,” he added. “We know that this match and all we have planned going forward can change that, and with that change will grow soccer not just in this country, but globally as well.”

Tebas added that the match will not take place just as a one off. Rather it will be the culmination of two months of engagement which will include youth events, the potential of a women’s match (another big La Liga priority) and much more that will have a “Super Bowl-like” culmination at the end of January. “Fans will get to engage with the players and the brands,” he added. “It will be a great event not just for La Liga, but for our game.”

And that, is good for all soccer business.

What: Rafael Nadal, 17 years and 80 career singles titles after his 2001 debut, transcends both the Spanish and English speaking world.
Why it matters: Nadal has found unparalleled success in the marketing arena as well, with a wide variety of sponsors, comfortably across languages and countries.

Nadal (Wikimedia commons si.robi)

The US Open (@usopen) has been a global event that draws close to 800,000 fans each year and becomes a global brand that is much more than just a tennis tournament in New York that rings Labor Day weekend every late summer.

Into that global mix, especially since the last American male to win the event was Andy Roddick (@theARFoundationin 2003, is a kaleidoscope of international athletes all with their own appeal not just in New York but across America, and perhaps no bigger draw for brands is Spain’s Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal).  More than Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, or even rising Americans like John Isner? Yes, Nadal. More than Argentinian and former US Open Champion Juan Martin del Potro? For sure. But why is Nadal’s sponsorship value, which according to Forbes, is in excess of US $27 million, so high, and how does it transcend both the Spanish speaking and Anglo world of tennis in America?

The easiest answer is style and grit. “For a game that is very much built on decorum and tradition, Rafa is fearless, and fans of any language and background love that,” said Randy Walker (@TennisPublisher ), a longtime tennis insider and publisher of many books on the sport, as well as the website World Tennis. “His attributes, overcoming injury, surmounting huge leads, and showing his emotions need no language and they are what anyone who loves spirit can appreciate.”

…[T]hat translates well to all kinds of brands looking for a crossover cultural and athletic connection.

Nadal’s portfolio is led by Nike (@Nike), who has had him on their handpicked tennis roster since 2008 and has built global campaigns around his stylish appearance for several years. Kia Motors (@Kia_Motors), another global disruptive brand, has worked with him since 2004 and has extended his partnership to 2020. Tommy Hilfiger (@TommyHilfiger) made Nadal a global ambassador in 2014 and he has been one of their centerpiece personalities since then.

There are regional brands like Telefónica (@Telefonicawho use Nadal as a global ambassador in key regions like Europe, Asia, and Central, and South America, Banco Sabadell, watchmaker Richard Mille and Babolat, who has had a longstanding relationship with him around the world as well.

Latinos, especially affluent, upwardly mobile and digital-first millennials, continue to crave culture and tradition while embracing that’s where Nadal fits the equation so well. He is Spanish language and manner first, but he fits well into a generation that loves style and flamboyance, which translates across the Atlantic and across cultures. Oh yes, and he wins, as he has done on the blue courts of the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center three times, including last September. However, even without the wins, Nadal’s brand and style fit better with the casual consumer than almost any other tennis player today, this side of Serena Williams or the now aging Federer. It comes down to culture.

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Gustavo Kuerten (Wikimedia/I, Steff)

“You see the cultural connections, especially for Latino players, every time they come to the Open,” Walker added.  “I remember when Andrés Gómez played and did so well at the Open, all the Ecuadorians rich and not so rich would come out and support him with everything from flags to pots and pans,” Walker added.  “The same happened with Gustavo Kuerten and the Brazilian fans and even this year in qualifying when veteran Dominican player Victor Estrella Burgos almost made the main draw. Their support transcends cultures and is infectious for the sport, and that translates well to all kinds of brands looking for a crossover cultural and athletic connection.”

While the USTA searches far and wide for its next male champion and invests millions into grassroots programs at getting Latinos involved and active in tennis across the country, their ability to capture, which has not yet really happened, a Spanish speaking ambassador to further expand the reach of the Open is right in their midst. Rafael Nadal is edgy, gritty, flamboyant, telegenic and athletic, traits which speak volumes to brands, and he has gotten to make that connection to millions around the world.

His brand and his partners are perhaps the best next step to cross a cultural divide for the game of love, and there is no better place to keep that relationship going than Flushing Meadows. Regardless of the outcome in the rest of the fortnight, Nadal the ambassador has done his job, on and off the court.

What: The leaders of FIFA and U.S. Soccer Federation met with the President to discuss 2026 World Cup plans.
Why it matters: Though largely ceremonial, the meeting was important in supporting the growth of the sport here.

There may be no more political sport than the global game of football, and there may be no more politicized sport in the United States than American football (@NFL).

This week, the global game reminded us that if it is to keep growing here, having the buy-in of the most important office in the world will be a help.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino and U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro (@CACSoccervisited President Donald Trump to talk about plans for bringing the 2026 World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) to North America, a massive global business event that will always need the support of government, no matter who sits in the Oval Office when the Games arrive.

…[F]ootball, the global game, continues to flourish in America, especially among the growing Latino demographic, with much brighter days ahead for the game as it matures in the United States.

“I would definitely like to see that soccer in the U.S. is becoming one of the top sports, not the No. 5,” Infantino told The Washington Post and SI.com on Tuesday. “You have to transform this country into a soccer country … What I want to see is the U.S. league, the U.S. national team, the U.S. youth development structures, boys and girls, being part of the top three in the world.”

The 2026 tournament will be one of unprecedented scale: three host nations, 48 teams, 80 games and 16 venues. So work has to start early, and although Tuesday’s Oval Office event was mostly one of celebration, commemoration and gratitude (Trump’s promises regarding access and visas were key during the buildup to the June vote), there was a bit of logistical and political talk.

A lot of those logistics and commitments require legislation, Cordeiro added. Although Trump won’t be in office in 2026, Cordeiro added, “It’s the signature of the president of the day, and it outlives any individual. It’s the commitment of the country.”

While there was probably little talk of the trade wars waging between Washington and its allies to the north and south these days, it is clear that the business of soccer will need great support to flourish, and the start off stamp of approval to move things along in Washington, a city which has just seen the new home of the D.C. United (@dcunited) (Audi Field) unveiled with great fanfare, is very encouraging as a next step, not just for World Cup, but for MLS and the business of soccer in general.

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There are currently are 17 venues in the USA, three in Canada and three in Mexico in contention to make the final cut. That should be decided by the end of 2020. There will be 60 games in the USA and 10 each in Mexico and Canada. MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., is the favorite to host the final.

There was certainly no talk of “Take A Knee,” the issue which has polarized American football and the White House, and continues to create issues off the field for the NFL, still the most popular and effective sport in terms of business across America. Despite recent reports of some declining youth numbers, football, the global game, continues to flourish in America, especially among the growing Latino demographic, with much brighter days ahead for the game as it matures in the United States.

While this week’s visit was more ceremonial, it presents a great step forward for all those stakeholders involved in the sport in America, politics kicked aside.

What: MLB announced a slate of games as it returns to Mexico next year with regular-season and spring-training contests.
Why it matters: Spreading the participation across multiple markets and multiple months will give MLB it’s most consistent on the ground presence in Mexico ever.

While much is made of the NFL in London and the NBA going to China, the greatest immediate impact professional sports can have outside the United States (with the exception of Canada), still lies just south.

The NFL and NBA have earmarked Mexico as their key growth market, given the influx of population, the commonality of many sporting traditions, the success of Liga MX (@LIGABancomerMXin the mainstream here, and the ability for fans and brands to traverse the border in a multilingual exchange of activity.

So it makes sense that MLB (@MLB), with its continued eye toward expansion of the brand, plans to enhance its commitment to Mexico (@MLB_Mexico, which they did on Wednesday in announcing three series in the country as a key part of their 2019 schedule.

It helps with tourism, with local government relations and in branding, giving companies a chance to activate not just as a one-off but with multiple touch points in multiple U.S. cities.

The Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks will play a pair of Spring Training games on March 9th-10th, the Cincinnati Reds will host the St. Louis Cardinals for a two-game regular season set on April 13th-14th, and the Los Angeles Angels and the Houston Astros will play a two-game series on May 4th-5th. All games will be played at Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey, which is the current home of the Sultanes de Monterrey (@SultanesOficialof the Mexican League.

The Spring Training games in Monterrey will be the first of the 2019 international campaign, with next seasons spanning of the globe the latest example of the continued collaboration between MLB and the MLBPA to promote baseball around the world.

The Rockies, who last appeared in Mexico for a Spring Training contest against the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015 in Hermosillo, will be making their third trip south of the border. Colorado also competed against the San Diego Padres on Opening Day in 1999 in Monterrey and again in Culiacan in 2001 during Spring Training. The Diamondbacks will return to Mexico after appearing in ten exhibition games from 1998–2015, all played in Hermosillo. Arizona played the Milwaukee Brewers in 1998 and 1999, the Angels in 2000, the Oakland Athletics in 2001, the Padres in 2002, the Kansas City Royals in 2003, the White Sox in 2008, Team Mexico in 2009 in advance of the WBC and the Rockies in 2010 and 2015. The Diamondbacks previously participated in MLB’s 2014 Opening Series in Australia against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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The Reds and Cardinals will be making their first trips to Mexico for the April regular season series. Cincinnati previously played an international three-game set in 2003 against the Montreal Expos in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Angels will head south of the border for the first time since they hosted the D-backs in Hermosillo for an exhibition game in 2000. The Angels have previously played internationally in Puerto Rico for a three-game series against the Expos in 2003.The reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros will make their third trip to Mexico and their first to the City of Monterrey. Houston previously played two exhibition series in Mexico City, one in 2004 against the Florida Marlins and a second against the Padres in 2016. The Astros also played internationally in 2000 with a two-game exhibition series in the Dominican Republic against the Boston Red Sox and in 2001 with a two-game exhibition set against the Cleveland Indians in Valencia, Venezuela.

This expansion follows the spring series this year, where from May 4-6, 2018, the Dodgers and the Padres played three games in Monterrey, drawing a total of 65,116 fans.

Spreading the participation across multiple markets and multiple months will give MLB it’s most consistent on the ground presence in Mexico ever. It helps with tourism, with local government relations and in branding, giving companies a chance to activate not just as a one off but with multiple touch points in multiple U.S. cities, all tied to programs which can be expanded with a Mexican payoff.

As MLB thinks globally, starting almost locally remains smart. Look for other leagues to follow along this road, as the value for brand and fan engagement in sport starts not that far away, with one of the world’s most engaged markets, Mexico, taking the lead.

What: Allstate continues its support of Latino sports and culture with title sponsorship of Alianza de Futbol’s “Sueño Alianza” program.
Why it matters: Allstate has put a strong foot forward in engaging with the loyal Latino community, particularly among youth.

There are not many major brands who have embraced the Latino culture around sport more than Allstate (@Allstate). Through soccer, that engagement will continue to grow.

Case in point was the company’s expansion into the youth soccer market, not only finding a new entry level into high school soccer with the Allstate All America Cup, but also much deeper into the commitment of cultivating Latino youth through a new title sponsorship with Brad Rothenberg’s co-founded and massively successful youth soccer platform, Alianza de Futbol (@alianzadefutbol). Over the past decade, his organization has held more than 300 events across the country for young players and has sent dozens of them to club teams in Mexico.

The brand signed on as the title sponsor of Alianza de Futbol’s “Sueño Alianza” program, which provides an opportunity for young Latino soccer players across the country to be scouted by professional clubs for a shot at soccer stardom. Jonathan Gonzalez, who was found by his current club, Monterrey, at the 2013 Allstate Sueño Alianza National Showcase, will serve as the spokesman for the program.

…[W]hile many brands still look for answers coming out of the successful efforts to market to Latinos following the World Cup, Allstate has doubled down in identifying the next stars.

Allstate was previously Alianza de Futbol’s official insurance sponsor and a sponsor of the Mexican federation in its activities in the United States.

“It’s great to see brands understand the power of grassroots marketing in soccer, and to see Allstate continue to put dollars and promotion behind this platform puts them in the driver’s seat for engaging with a group that is so brand loyal, the Latino consumer,” said Chris Lencheski, longtime sports marketer and professor at Columbia University. “Grassroots marketing is not always easy, but it is the best way to make sure you are reaching families where they live and work, and by doing these programs Allstate is building consumers for life.”

The Alianza de Futbol announcement was part of Allstate high school launch program, to recognize the nation’s top high school juniors and bring them together for an Allstate All-America Cup to be held at the 2019 MLS All-Star Game and televised on ESPNU. In all, 125 male and 125 female players will be named Allstate All-Americans, and of them 40 males and 40 females will be selected to play in the Allstate All-America Cup. The players will be honored at halftime of the 2019 MLS All-Star Game.

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“For more than a decade, Allstate has taken great pride in its commitment to the soccer community, always with the goal of providing superior protection to the fans and the sport they love.” said Pam Hollander, Allstate’s Vice President of Consumer Marketing in a statement. “The Allstate All-America program was designed to shine a spotlight on the student-athletes who represent the best of more than 800,000 high school soccer players in America. It extends Allstate’s commitment to soccer in the U.S. that started when we became the official insurance partner of Major League Soccer in 2011.”

So while many brands still look for answers coming out of the successful efforts to market to Latinos following the World Cup, Allstate has doubled down in identifying the next stars, and with that identification comes families and great stories. That type of engagement is, as another soccer sponsor likes to say, “Priceless.”

Cover image: credit Alianza de Futbol

What: A Chivas press conference received some social media exposure for its excessive product placement in front of coach Jose Cardozo.
Why it matters: The almost comical number of items, coupled with a mic flag and step-and-repeat logo got a few laughs and actually provided some basically harmless extra exposure for the Liga MX team and a few of its partner brands.

Much has been made about the strong growth of both Mexican football and Liga MX (@LIGABancomerMX), the most viewed football week in, week out in North America. Brands like Wells Fargo (@WellsFargo), Allstate (@Allstate) and Verizon (@verizon) have used Mexican football as a key way to engage with a diverse and passionate Latino audience, not just a Mexican audience, across North America.

However sometimes sponsorship can maybe go a little too far—or maybe it’s a little more than innovative. This past week Chivas (@Chivas), one of the most revered football sides in North America set a new bar which frankly drove some great buzz in social media but maybe went a bit too far.

Now Chivas may not have a sponsor on the front of their shirt like others in the sponsorship-cluttered world of Mexican soccer (though Tecate (@tecate) is on the back, but they found a new level of postgame brand integration that certainly was different.

…[T]he social space gave Chivas a tremendous bump of recognition on a quiet summer Sunday where no one probably outside of their loyal fans would have noticed

Following a Sunday home loss in what has been a dismal season, coach Jose Cardozo gave the usual post-match press conference, telling the media the problems that losing clubs have. However the presser was record setting not because of word, but because of product. Almost a dozen products. Cereal, organic cereal, chocolate milk and Coca Cola were placed either side of the microphone, which also had a beer logo on it (Tecate, claro). Then throw in Powerade, Puma, Colavita and another half dozen brands on the wall behind Cardozo, and you have some kind of record for brand integration. Luckily the coach of the 17th place club played along and didn’t go on a sampling binge with the media as he spoke, but maybe that will be next?

Now all was not lost on the moment, as the social space gave Chivas a tremendous bump of recognition on a quiet summer Sunday where no one probably outside of their loyal fans would have noticed. While the club admitted that the product placement was to help bring in added value for its brands, the result was really buzz for partners that was unexpected, and traveled well beyond expectations globally.

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Now is this type of bump something that the growing, prosperous league needs more of? Exposure and activation for ROI is great, but replicating what was an unusual circumstance probably isn’t the way the elite of Liga MX will be going.

Still for one week, intentional or not, Chivas was all the talk again, albeit for an unusual reason. A sponsorship record that probably won’t be broken anytime soon, especially for a losing club in any sport.

What: La Liga has entered into a 15-year deal with U.S.-based promoter Relevent Sports to form La Liga North America, to bring the circuit’s matches to the States.
Why it matters: European leagues have held “friendlies” in the U.S. for years, but La Liga North America represents the next step: bringing regular league matches here, with huge fandom and marketing possibilities.

For over a decade, the elite football clubs of the world have made the trek across the pond or up from South America for summer friendlies—training matches for the most part as they prepped for their regular seasons. All have seen the growing market in and around American football, and look for ways to exploit brand and build fan bases not just for those one off matches, but for a growingly savvy American football fan that starts from the grassroots and now, due to the infusion of regular broadcasts on networks like NBC and FOX and ESPN and to some extended beIN (@beINSPORTS) and others, are regularly engaged on a weekly basis, year round watching their favorite clubs.

You cannot walk more than a few blocks in Manhattan these days without seeing a random kit from everyone from Roma (@OfficialASRomaand Real Madrid (@realmadridto Flamengo (@Flamengo). The growth of appreciation for the elite soccer clubs of the world has been quite amazing to watch.

To grow the brand awareness effectively you need to have those global fans not just see an exhibition, the need to experience the real thing.

Those clubs have also seen not just the development of the game with knowledgeable fans, but the potential for marketing dollars as well. By some counts, there are as many as 10 global clubs with a commercial office looking to do deals now set up in the United States. Arguably the most successful thus far has been FC Bayern Munich (@FCBayernUS), whose smart digital-first approach led by Rudolf Vidal has established supporter groups in all 50 states, something which mist NFL teams can’t even say they have. They have also done a great job of taking advantage of partner sponsorships like Audi (@Audiand Adidas (@adidasUSto grow brand marketing opportunities in the States, especially in and around summer tours like the one they just completed. They have done all of that without having a mature American marketable star just yet, but they have made their brand, and their elite players, very recognizable in the States.

Other clubs like City Football Club (Tom Glick, Chief Commercial & Operating Officer – Manchester City will be one of the star speakers at Portada New York on Sept. 25),
Chelsea (@ChelseaFC(with their brand building events last fall), Roma (with their American ownership group and recent Serie A success), and Liverpool continue to also scale up in the marketplace, even when the clubs are a continent away.

The recently completed International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup), the most ambitious ever in markets big and medium-sized, again showed that the power of the names of elite soccer clubs to draw in the U.S. and Canada was not waning. However to make the jump from just casual events, which often lacked star power and as the matches went on, became more and more like glorified practices as clubs sought to diminish the risk of injury and fatigue to key players just preparing for a season to come, the increasingly interested American fan, as well as loyal expats living and working in the States, there needs to be a next step.

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It is a step which American leagues like the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and MLB, realized several years ago. To grow the brand awareness effectively you need to have those global fans not just see an exhibition, the need to experience the real thing; regular season events with all on the line, not just marketing trips where the effort, and the stars may be waning. The regular season matchups don’t just add value to fans, they show true commitment that the league or the brand of a team, is invested in giving fans the best.

Recently we have seen some efforts in sports like rugby (the Aviva Premiership brought a match between London Irish and Saracens to the States), and even football (when the French Cup was played at Red Bull Arena five years ago), but no real consistent proposal has been out forth to bring the real thing to America and its growing marketplace. Whispers of Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) finals to be played in America? Yes. Dreams of the Premier League expanding and adding two clubs in the U.S.? Dreams indeed, which have been quickly dismissed time and again. The friendlies, it seems were enough.

Until this week, when La Liga took a next bold step.

On Wednesday, Spain’s top-flight soccer competition, and Relevent, announced a first-of-a-kind 15-year, equal joint venture which will include plans to bring a regular season club match to the United States, the first to be played outside of Europe.

Called La Liga North America, the newly founded organization will work to cultivate soccer culture in the U.S. and Canada. LaLiga North America will support the league’s growth in the U.S. and Canada through consumer-related activities including youth academies, development of youth soccer coaches, marketing agreements, consumer activations, exhibition matches and plans to have an official La Liga Santander match played in the U.S. While there is no timetable yet, and one would not expect El Clasico to suddenly end up in Philadelphia or even Miami (where the offseason matchup between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona was staged last summer) you will get to see some of the elite clubs of La Liga who are willing to give up a home match and grow their brands in America in the fall or winter or spring, not summer before too long.

“This extraordinary joint venture is the next giant leap in growing soccer’s popularity in North America,” said Stephen Ross, chairman and co-founder of RSE Ventures, parent company of Relevent in a release. “This unique relationship will create new opportunities for millions of North American soccer fans to experience the most passionate, exciting, and highest level of soccer in the world.”

La Liga President Javier Tebas added: “We’re devoted to growing the passion for soccer around the world. This ground-breaking agreement is certain to give a major impulse to the popularity of the beautiful game in the U.S. and Canada. Relevent has filled stadiums across the U.S. with the International Champions Cup, we’re thrilled to partner with them on a joint mission to grow soccer in North America.”

The move by La Liga makes good business sense for a number of reasons. They are looking to a market that is growing where Spanish is already the dominant second language, where they already have brands involved in sports well engaged, and where the Anglo soccer fan has enjoyed the growth of elite football. They also can use this to potentially exploit a new bigger broadcast agreement as well as continue to grow their streaming opportunities in a market that is very digital savvy, and has young engaged fans who think mobile first. It also will give La Liga “first in” with some brands who may be looking to grow their soccer footprint abroad, but were not sure exactly how. Bringing exhibitions to the U.S. was a nice first step, bringing regular-season matches gives brands a real platform to embrace consistently every year, which is very appealing. There is also the aspect of women’s soccer, which has been growing on the La Liga radar. With women becoming more and more engaged in the game, and La Liga expanding its professional women’s league, the opportunity to exploit the female playing, as well as consuming, demo can also be part of the plan.

Now what does this mean for North America’s standing soccer leagues, Liga MX (@LIGABancomerMX), which draws more viewers than anyone, and Major League Soccer (@MLS)? It certainly is not a surprise, and should help to again bolster the interests and the buzz around soccer as a brand in the United States. The match will also probably be in the MLS offseason, which also helps to keep “brand soccer” vibrant in America, and that can lead to more fan exposure and can uncover new brands looking to engage in the sport.

Where and what all this will mean will unfold in the current months, and will probably lead to a new level of year-round experiential soccer in the U.S. and Canada for leagues looking to grow brand and disrupt the current model. The who—namely which clubs—and the when—will be key for a next step for La Liga. There are already stories of players balking at the announcement which will probably be part of a negotiation to move this forward. Regardless being first is always better than not.

If you are involved in the soccer business, this move is a good one, if you are looking to get in, a new opportunity has arisen.

Cover Image: Wikimedia Commons/Andres Bustos

What: Henry Cejudo last weekend became the first Olympic champion to win a UFC title.
Why it matters: The new flyweight champion is also the only Hispanic Olympic gold medalist, with a huge personality that is an ideal crossover hit for marketers.

He is an Olympic wrestling champion, the only Latino athlete to take home gold for the United States in the Beijing Olympics in any sport. The son of undocumented immigrants who worked hard to give him a better life, Henry Cejudo’s (@HenryCejudonarrative got all that much better last Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, when he defeated Demetrious Johnson for the UFC Flyweight Championship title.

Following the win, Cejudo, who last year narrowly escaped death in one of the Northern California wildfires, jumping out a hotel window to safety, was immediately hailed as the next breakthrough face of the UFC (@ufc). His size, at only 5 foot 4, his personality—there is a book and a play about his life story already—and his seemingly reckless style which has earned him “Match of the Night” during numerous fights, all bode well for the Mexican-American California resident.

With the UFC in a bit of a plateau, and looking to attract a larger audience of first timers from the Latino ranks, could Cejudo’s rise be great for the Endeavor-owned MMA Venture? It seems so. With Modelo (@ModeloUSAnow on board as the “Official Beer,” and 7- Eleven (@7elevenas “Official Convenience Store,” the UFC’s growth to attract casual fight fans through partnerships is in a great place, and Cejudo can help seed that market now as a champion.

His story should be noticed by brands as an authentic opportunity to connect with Latinos. It’s really a no brainer.

And while Cejudo’s story was attractive even without a UFC belt, his success in the Octagon, coupled with some of the new partners who have come along, could really pay some very timely dividends.

“Being a champion or the best at any sport is always an important milestone for an athlete, and can typically lead to new opportunities. We see this across just about any sport. Add UFC’s brand popularity into this mix, especially among young men, Henry has positioned himself for great possibilities,” said Mario Flores, Managing Partner at Sportivo.  “This win for Henry adds to his already incredible journey: from an immigrant to Olympic champion to UFC champ. His story should be noticed by brands as an authentic opportunity to connect with Latinos. It’s really a no brainer.”

While fighters pimping out signage with body art and on shorts in the Octagon is much more uniform and controlled these days, any host of brands who are fight and training sport savvy and looking for the feel good Latino engagement probably doesn’t need to look much further than Cejudo.

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That could include everyone from mobile partners to financial services, along with the regulars looking to engage in the space like health and wellness brands. And although shoes and apparel are rarely high on the list for MMA  athletes, disruptive brands that score high in the Latino demo may find a home with the UFC’s latest Olympian turned champion.

Now of course the challenge to retain a belt in MMA is just as difficult as the rise to be a champion, but that dual Olympic-UFC narrative is certainly rare, and one that can live on for quite a long time. Cejudo has always been sponsor friendly and his narrative is robust for fight sports as well.

Will it translate into not just personal dollars but a solid bump in awareness for the UFC? Time will tell, but a great stage was set this weekend, once that can be a win for all.

What: Francisco Lindor’s All-Star Game appearance in Washington, D.C. helped enhance his status as one of the league’s rising stars on and off the field.
Why it matters: A crossover standout like Lindor, who has appeal not just to Latinos but to a wide variety of fans, can be what baseball needs as it struggles to market outside of die-hard fans, to younger audiences.

There he was in the midst of the biggest night of stars for Major League Baseball (@MLB ‏) in the summer of 2018, shining as bright as a personality as anyone else and then some. The Cleveland Indians’ Francisco Lindor (@Lindor12BC), a young, athletic, multilingual personable star, chatting up Joe Buck (@Buckand crew on the FOX Broadcast from his spot at shortstop, live in the midst of the All-Star Game (@AllStarGame ‏) in Washington as play was developing all around him.

Not only was he answering questions and giving fans a true “look-see” into the goings on on the field, Lindor was chatting up players around him in English one minute, Spanish the next, with the ease of a talk show host. He also didn’t miss a beat as he tracked down a short 7th inning popup in left field, still conversing with the guys in the booth as the inning ended. At a time when some are questioning the marketability of a young generation of stars, the 24-year-old Puerto Rican seems to be ready to assume the mantle not just for Latino fans, but for all of America as the Tribe (@Indiansmake their play in the season’s second half and beyond.

…in a time when many are questioning the lack of marketing effort put forth around some of MLB’s brightest stars, the Puerto Rico native might be ready for a big next step.

The smooth conversation during the national broadcast wasn’t the first time even that day that Lindor let his personality do the talking. He arrived for the MLB red carpet sporting a stylish backpack and hat, with skinny jeans and no socks, as comfortable with the cameras as he is on the diamond. “His sense of calm and style is impeccable,” said La Vida Baseball (@LaVidaBaseballEditor In Chief Adrian Burgos. “If Prince came back as a ballplayer, he would be Lindor; he epitomizes cool.”

Cool is anything the 24-year-old now Floridian has been on the field again this year, ranking among American League leaders in everything from runs (first as of 7/25) to home runs (5th) to WAR (4th). His brand value is also sizzling.

According to opendorse (@opendorse), the leading platform for pairing athletes of all backgrounds with brands using social media metrics, the man known as “Mr. Smile” has amassed over 84,000 new followers on Instagram since Opening Day, seventh among all active MLB players in growth since the season started. He is also 5th overall amongst Latino stars and gaining fast, trailing only Giancarlo Stanton, Manny Machado, Jose Altuve and Javier Baez.

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That on and off appeal hasn’t gone unnoticed in a world well outside Cleveland now. When LeBron James exited Ohio for the L.A. Lakers earlier this month, New Balance (@newbalance), which made Lindor their global ambassador for baseball, started lobbying that James’ massive downtown billboard be replaced by one of Lindor. The campaign itself fit well into his rise on the field, and was amplified by the national stage last week in Washington, where media big and small suddenly saw star power on the rise. Other brands, like Pepsi, Taco Bell, Lids, and Franklin have started to hitch their ride on Lindor’s growth, and in a time when many are questioning the lack of marketing effort put forth around some of MLB’s brightest stars, the Puerto Rico native might be ready for a big next step.

credit: Flickr/Erik Drost

“Francisco has a rare mix of being comfortable around both the English and Spanish speaking fans, partially because he came to the mainland U.S. at such a young age and grew up in baseball in a multilingual and multicultural environment,” Burgos, who has followed Lindor throughout his career, added. “Cleveland might not be L.A., but his personality and performance will transcend that city, and he is a great fit for what baseball needs: a young, savvy, telegenic crossover star, it’s very exciting to see his potential playing through.”

Now that potential still has a ways to go, both on the field and off. To effectively rise above Ohio and find his way to Madison Avenue consistently, the Indians need to stay in the competitive mix. A healthy season, combined with a vibrant personality for a sport that is working to grow telegenic, multicultural stars is a marriage that sells, and sell Lindor can do.

For brands, for baseball, to the growingly engaged and business savvy Latino audience, and most importantly, to mainstream America, Francisco Lindor is raising the bar. A new star shown brightly in the Nation’s Capital, now it seems ready to take its place in a bright multicultural constellation.

We all should enjoy the view.

What: With World Cup over, it can be deemed an overall global success not just in soccer, but in sports business.
Why it matters: Brands were able to use social media to deliver messages more than ever, via nontraditional outlets like Twitch, a trend that will only increase.

The FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCupis now in the rear view mirror, as soccer friendlies and several months of MLS (@MLSnow take center stage in North America, as global fans of “The Beautiful Game” await training and then the opening of the elite European leagues in the late summer.

The lessons learned from World Cup activation and engagement continue to grow. The effective implementation of social campaigns tied to the games were in record numbers, Spanish language broadcasts in the U.S. drew solid audiences despite the fact that the U.S. did not qualify for the event, and many of the elite Spanish language countries exited a little earlier than expected. Still the drama and life displayed by first timers like Peru and the continued growth and engagement of Mexico led to an even bigger bounce than what was expected making World Cup in Russia an overall global success not just in soccer, but in sports business.

…[B]rands that invested in social were able to find a new engagement platform, especially for digital first millennial consumers, that had not existed before.
credit: Soccer.ru

In the U.S., the change of leadership at the top of USA Soccer (@USASoccer), and the announcement that the 2026 Cup will be coming to North America has also given rise to even more hope that soccer as a property will still see its biggest days ahead.

With that forward looking idea comes one more look back at World Cup engagement, this time through an engagement platform becoming more and more prevalent as sports looks to be customized and digital first. Twitch (@Twitch ‏), the Amazon owned streaming service, has become a monster and go to platform for esports for several years, and now leagues like the NBA have looked to create more formal relationships as a custom screen experience for fans. The NBA G league (@nbagleagueexperimented with great success on Twitch last season, and more and more relationships will be coming, especially as Amazon itself continues its ramp up with broadcast rights for major sports leagues around the world.

Portada worked with Stream Hatchet (@StreamHatchet), one of the world’s elite digital measurement services, to look at Twitch and the World Cup, and how and if the official brands tied to World Cup actually gained share of voice across the channels created by fans on Twitch before and then during the World Cup. Given the fact that Twitch had no official relationship with FIFA, the share of voice for brands might be expected to be small. However what played out was actually interesting, as it shows that brands that invested in social were able to find a new engagement platform, especially for digital first millennial consumers, that had not existed before.

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courtesy Wanda

Who were the brands that won out over the thousands of Twitch channels and conversations created specifically around World Cup? There were five that entered conversations best: Wanda, Hyundai, Adidas, Visa and Coke, with the engagement and chatter about the brands on Twitch starting before the Games actually began, and then peaking as the semi-finals and finals came into view.

Given the savviness of Asian consumers around esports and the use of Twitch as a medium of choice, the success of engagement for brands like Wanda and Hyundai makes great sense. However to see global brands like Visa and Coke, and an apparel brand like Adidas be in conversations throughout the course of the Games opens a very unique window for future engagement. Keep in mind that little to no sponsorship dollars were spent in conjunction with Twitch, so all the engagement mentions and conversations, sometimes as large as 50,000, all game about in a generic and authentic form for the young consumers watching and talking about the World Cup on the platform.

It provides a great litmus test into the power of both a custom streaming channel, and a second screen experience not just for the World Cup, but for any sports event looking to engage and activate going forward. Now with such a massive spend by brands on traditional channels, will dollars suddenly flow to Twitch, or even other second screen streaming experiences like Facebook Live, that easily in the short term? No. However this snapshot (below) by Stream Hatchet and Portada shows that there is growing value that has been anecdotal, and now is quantifiable, as brands looks to engage new consumers on a platform they are comfortable on and more and more used to using.

While focus remains on big screen for now, the handheld, custom experience continues to make inroads, the proof, even in World Cup, is now there to see.

Cover image: Mahdi Zare/Fars News Agency

What: After the World Cup, it’s baseball’s Latino stars’ turn to show off in the All-Star Game and associated activities.
Why it matters: Baseball’s Latino numbers are higher than ever. Companies are figuring out the best ways to transfer that star power to marketing strength.

The best news coming out of the World Cup for sports business in the United States was the aggregate power of Latino activation. It played out across broadcast numbers, social engagement and brand activation. The ROI from all who looked to the Latino demo, from millennials and Spanish-first speakers to families and women, was a landmark. It should pave the way for a less adverse media audience to find better ways to engage across all sports.

So what about baseball? This week’s All-Star events in Washington, from the Futures Game to The Mid-Summer Classic, had more star power with Latino ties than ever before. The brand power of these stars, from established veterans like Manny Machado and Jose Altuve (@JoseAltuve27), to rising names like Jesús Luzardo (@Baby_Jesus9) are not just the names and faces of baseball. They can be its marketing life blood.

Baseball has committed stars who understand their legacy and want to continue to give back to the game that has brought them so much.

Baseball Brand

Last Friday at the American History Museum in Washington, La Vida Baseball (@LaVidaBaseballhosted a panel called “Giving and the Game.” The packed event showcased the history and the opportunities that Latinos have to grow the baseball brand. We can attribute this to the way the game is so deeply rooted in culture, from Cuba and Venezuela to Mexico and Panama and beyond. The event was hosted by baseball historian and La Vida Editor In Chief Adrian Burgos Jr. And the discussion covered a wide variety of topics. Presenters were Mets Special Assistant General Manager Omar Minaya, and José Antonio Tijerino of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (@HHFoundation ‏).

“When you look at the business of baseball, you cannot overlook that 32 percent of the players today in the Major League alone are Latino. That number continues to rise,” Tijerino said. “The game is ingrained in the culture across Latin America. That’s a really powerful message that can help grow the sport that needs to continue to get out there. Baseball has committed stars. They understand their legacy, as well as wanting to continue to give back to the game that has brought them so much.”

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baseball
Manny Machado (Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison)

Minaya was also ebullient about the power of Latinos. As a result, he talked about the commitment of players young and old. He talked about storytelling and making sure that the traditions learned continue on. That’s a message that brands need to hear more of as they pick the areas where they will spend their dollars.

Latinos’ Responsibility

“Leadership is all about responsibility. Therefore, we as Latinos, from the front office to players of all ages, have to grow the game of baseball. We have to grow it and not just on the field but in the community,” he said. “Our athletes today have the ability, especially with social media, to help transform society. That’s because they are revered, and not just in the countries where they come from, but in the cities they play in today or have played in in the past.  They understand that responsibility and as a result how that can translate into helping baseball continue to grow as a sport and a business.”

Still, even with All-Star rosters dominated by Latino surnames, 25 in total, the opportunity for business growth lies ahead. MLB has made big strides in recent years to better develop and assimilate young Latino stars into the business and branding side. Therefore, teams like the Diamondbacks, the Mets, the Yankees, and the Astros have put a premium on marketing their stars to a Latino fan base. They use very targeted programs. Meanwhile, Madison Avenue is still trying to figure out the multicultural mix that shows a return. It remains a challenge. It is one that seems to move more and more to the forefront. That’s because Latino spending increases and millennials are finding their niche in sports engagement.

Partners

This year we have seen companies like New Era (@NewEraCap), Pepsi (@pepsiand 5-Hour Energy (@5hourenergystart to incorporate young Latino stars into crossover promotions. But the growth has been slow, although now more steady.

“Brands need to recognize that ‘Latino’ is a multicultural reality. And for many Latinos in the United States soccer is not the number one sport. Baseball is as young, exciting and profitable as it has been in generations. And the on-field product is becoming increasingly Latino,” added La Vida Baseball’s Managing Director Tab Bamford. “There are tremendous individual ambassadors in the game, and brands don’t see the untapped potential in baseball.”

Baseball can learn a great deal from the success of the World Cup with Latino engagement and activation. Its multilingual stars are more front and center and transcendent in numbers than ever before. Now it’s time to put those personalities on center stage for partners. Specially for those reticent about interacting with players whose background wasn’t always All-American. “All Americas” is becoming in vogue.

What: A new study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, as reported by the New York Times, notes that youth soccer participation is down 14%.
Why it matters: It’s an alarming number, one of which soccer industry leaders are aware and are looking at ways to turn around; playing rather than just watching is a key element to long-term fandom.

There was a time not too long ago when all those monitoring trends for growth in sport at the youth level saw the demise of football coming, while a handful of sports, most notably soccer, were on a meteoric rise. Some day, the theory went, “The Beautiful Game” of football would surpass “The American Game” of football in popularity, and soccer would assume its place in North America like it has in the rest of the world.

According to a story in the New York Times based on the latest Sports & Fitness Industry Association numbers, soccer, at least at the youth level, has hit a staggering and unexpected decline. According to Joe Drape, “Over the past three years, the percentage of 6- to 12-year-olds playing soccer regularly has dropped nearly 14 percent, to 2.3 million players, according to a study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, (@TheSFIAwhich has analyzed youth athletic trends for 40 years. The number of children who touched a soccer ball even once during the year, in organized play or otherwise, also has fallen significantly” with losses in participation of as many as 600,000 youth players.

The question remains whether that will translate down to young people, especially youth and minorities of all backgrounds, playing soccer.

As U.S. Soccer (@ussoccergoes through its leadership change now under Carlos Cordeiro (@CACSoccer), the World Cup starts to come on the horizon for 2026 in North America, and brands continue invest in marketing the sport and scores of elite non-U.S. clubs open academies here to better develop young players, the sport, it seems, has hit a new turning point, with Latino youth and overall engagement amongst that demo the place where the sport can point to changing.

The best news coming out of the World Cup were the rising numbers in engagement by Latinos across America throughout the games, while Mexico’s value as a brand was buoyed by its success on the field and the expansion of its brand partners into the marketplace. Also as we wrote last week, brands found the way to engage better than ever in the social space, with the digital engagement company Mitú (@wearemitucreating unique content around both the Spanish and English speaking Latino fan. Moreover, Liga MX remains the most watched soccer league across the U.S., all of which is very positive in showing Latino engagement through soccer.

In the coming weeks, many of the world’s elite clubs will be coming to the United States, and La Liga will be making an even bigger push to expose their teams and their partners, not just FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, to thousands of casual and die hard soccer fans for the remainder of the summer.

While all that is positive, and gives a clear path of engagement for the longer run from a fan and viewership for the Latino demo, the question remains whether that will translate down to young people, especially youth and minorities of all backgrounds, playing soccer which gives them more of a lifelong affinity to the game. The Times’ story points to several factors related to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association study that indicate that a change needs to be made in the marketing and engagement of young Latinos for that to happen.

Brad Rothenberg, who co-founded Alianza de Futbol (@alianzadefutbolto develop amateur soccer among Latinos, said U.S. Soccer had invested little in identifying talent in Latino and African-American communities, the story added. Over the past decade, his organization has held more than 300 events across the country for young players and has sent dozens of them to club teams in Mexico.

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Brad Rothenberg

“If year after year, at every decision point, U.S. Soccer continues to alienate Latinos and blacks, we are going to sit on the sidelines and watch the rest of the world get better,” Rothenberg, who co-founded Alianza de Futbol to develop amateur soccer among Latinos told The Times.

Cost for elite play, as pointed out by longtime American star Hope Solo at a Hashtag Sports event in New York a few weeks ago, also factors into the lack of engagement in Latinos and minorities. Solo was clear in calling out soccer’s organizing groups for being too elitist and not being able to make the game affordable for all, which narrows the pipeline for success.

Now, will USA Soccer, and other global clubs step into that void to turn the engagement level for young people, especially Latinos who continue to show an affinity for the game? The opening of academies for elite players is a small step which will build American star power, but having casual players engaged in healthy activity and understanding the game as they play on the field vs. watching on a device or television is another critical step. Are there brands that will look more and more to the youth level to engage, as Toyota and Allstate have done with Alianza de Futbol?

Other sports like baseball and basketball, have seen and made the investment in youth participation in recent years, and the study has seen that efforts produce positive results. Soccer apparently needs to find that next step to reverse a troubling trend, and the numbers and the results show that the Latino fan can be the next best step.

The World Cup gave us great best practices for engagement and value in the demo, now leadership needs to take those best practices and add dollars and value to build not just young Latino stars for elite clubs and MLS, but healthy engaged young players for life. Soccer at its base is a simple, affordable game; not investing properly, however, can prove to be costly, and the numbers bear that out.

Cover Image: Derek Jensen (Tysto)

What: Mitú has carved out a niche in the social space, helping brands leverage the World Cup to engage millennial Latinos.
Why it matters: The example set by Mitú at World Cup can serve as a template or at least a starting point for brands to connect with Hispanics through grand-scale sporting events.

Mexico fans at World Cup 2018 Credit: Soccer.ru

When the final goal is scored and the trophy awarded for this World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup), what will marketers and brands look back on as a measure for success in North America, especially with the U.S. and Canada not qualifying, and even some of the biggest Latino countries expected to deliver going out as late as the quarterfinals?

One thing we believe marketers will point to is the bounce gotten from the Latino audience, one which continues to grow and have a larger share of voice, be it in English or Spanish in the U.S. We saw the leverage Soccer United Marketing exploited through Mexico’s run, finding ways for brands to engage fans both of El Tri (@miseleccionmxENand those following the event in general, and media partners covering the games fully recognized the growth of engagement across all platforms with a targeted Latino audience that has been hard to quantify by risk averse media buyers before.

What they have done with platforms like Netflix they can do even more effectively with sports, and the World Cup represents a great best practice that can now spill over into the NFL, MLB, MLS and others like NASCAR

Another area that has seen growth has been the social space, and that is where another company has been able to show brands the way to effectively and successfully engage with the Latino demo during the games, and set a path for success going forward not just in soccer, but in all areas of sport.

The company is Mitú (@wearemitu), and its focus on delivering Latino millennials to brands exclusively through social continues to see a payoff as the games in Russia reach their end. The philosophy is a simple one: create branded content that is authentic and very targeted to the interests and engagement habits of young Latinos and open a window for those companies to create brand loyalty and a conversation on social just for that audience.

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The results for companies like Fox (@FOXSports), Toyota (@Toyota), Wendy’s (@Wendysand Jack in the Box (@JackBox ‏) have been very promising, with millions of impressions and sharing across Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms that could and should lead to more success down the road when World Cup is just a memory.

Mitú engages its audience through a Latino POV, representing the “200 percent” of youth who identify themselves as 100% American and 100% Latino. Mitú elevates and celebrates Latino stories, audiences and talent, putting them front and center in American pop culture. What they have done with platforms like Netflix they can do even more effectively with sports, and the World Cup represents a great best practice that can now spill over into the NFL, MLB, MLS and others like NASCAR, all major properties that crave a young audience, have had challenges engaging and retaining millennials, and need and want to show their brand partners even more of an ROI than ever before.

Herb Scannell

“Mitu represents the fastest growing and most influential demo in the U.S. today in Latino Millennials. With the U.S. not in this World Cup, smart brands like Toyota, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, and obviously Fox Sports, realized they needed to reach our audience and engage them with content that is authentic and in-culture,” said CEO Herb Scannell (@herbscannelllast week. “They turned to us to create it for them. By engaging Latinos, these brands will be rewarded long after the tournament is over.”

While there was great angst from those looking toward the World Cup when the U.S. failed to qualify, the reality that settled in was pretty clear; now is the time to attach to and grow the Latino sports fan, be he or she a parent or an engaged digital savvy teen, and do it in the format that he or she is used to consuming. Even though it is still a work in progress it is clear that the takeaway from the past few weeks is that Latinos are engaged and brand loyal, and now there are quantifiable results with content that can be used for best practices for brands going forward. Maybe it would have been a bigger bonanza if 2018 was the coming out for young American stars on the field, but the real stars, the engaged consumer, especially the Latino ones, are starting to shine more, and companies like Mitu have really started to light that path for the future.

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Cover image: Wikimedia/Fadesga

What: World Cup activations and partnerships have begun as the tournament kicked off last weekend.
Why it matters: Companies are leveraging stars like Lionel Messi and Ronaldo while soccer interest is highest globally.

We will certainly see more brands looking to grab viral opportunities and ride the wave of success as the FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCupplays out. Here is a look at some of the early partnerships announced as we enter the first full week of group play.

Kellogg’s Serves Soccer: Taking advantage of the early start times on the East Coast of the U.S., Kellogg’s (@KelloggsUS ‏) NYC Café teamed with Eat Soccer (@EatSoccerTV), a soccer lifestyle agency, for a Morning Match breakfast experience. The event kicked off on June 15 for the Egypt vs. Uruguay match at 8 a.m., and continues on weekdays through Friday. The store will feature multiple TVs broadcasting the games, as well as what Kellogg’s described as an “immersive kitchen.” The café will open an Instagram-friendly nook with lighting, props and different angles for visitors to snap photos in their soccer jerseys.

Fans can reserve a spot with $20-tickets offering unlimited access to Kellogg’s cereal bar, milk, coffee and tea. The café will have more than 30 ingredients, including rum-roasted bananas and marshmallows, on hand for the event.

In a series of immersive videos, viewers are shown a playful side of Messi and local social media influencers as they share a series of unexpected moments.

Messi’s Mark: Before Saturday’s penalty miss against Iceland, Ooredoo (@ooredooand Lionel Messi teamed up for a new campaign. In a series of immersive videos, viewers are shown a playful side of Messi and local social media influencers as they share a series of unexpected moments.

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China Activation:  FIFA partner Dalian Wanda (@DalianWandareleased a new short film that tells the story of a group of young Chinese footballers who will be given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Russia. The film documents a group from Wanda’s “Rising Stars” program who will have the opportunity to step onto the pitch at the World Cup as one of the official World Cup flag bearers. The players carried the official FIFA flag onto the pitch during Spain vs. Portugal on Friday and Belgium vs. Panama on Monday.

Sleeping with Ronaldo: Cristiano Ronaldo was announced as a brand ambassador for SleepScore (@SleepScore). The move comes after SleepScore, which specializes in sleep measurement and improvement, launched a new mobile app, which Ronaldo will help promote.

Picture This: Vivo, the official smartphone sponsor of the 2018 FIFA World Cup has launched its music and photography marketing activations for fans, empowering them to be more than just part of an audience, under its global campaign titled, “My Time, My FIFA World Cup™”, which comprises Vivo’s Super Time project and Vivo Super Fan photographer program. It calls upon fans to make this tournament one to remember, to be truly extraordinary and fully experience, capture and share extraordinary moments around them through their smartphones.

Cover Image: Ooredoo

What: Wells Fargo’s campaign featuring Landon Donovan supporting Team Mexico in the World Cup has gained some attention amid some “controversy” regarding the spots.
Why it matters: Marketers can use the window of Mexico’s success and popularity with an American figure who can transcend cultures and casual fans to draw needed awareness here.

Make no mistake about it, Mexico is America’s Team, or at least the Team of the Americas, for the World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup). El Tri’s (@miseleccionmxENsuccess was further cemented over the weekend by a 1-0 first match win over Germany in Group play, and the ongoing drama from Rafa Marquez and his off field involvement or lack of involvement with unsavory business dealings, and now the “controversy” over Landon Donovan supporting Mexico as they make their run.

All of that casual spin, drama and success makes for great opportunities for Mexico as the world’s largest sporting event unfolds in Russia in the coming weeks, and is great news for the first adopter brands who have come on board (with the help of Soccer United Marketing who represents them and the U.S. men’s National team and other properties in the game) looking to grow their demo with not just the Latino fanbase, but the casual soccer fan and the World Cup viewer.

Some of those brands, like AT&T (@ATT), Allstate (@Allstateand Home Depot (@HomeDepot), have used partnerships to grow affinity in key markets where the Mexican following is established in the U.S., like Texas and California, while others have looked to try and reach an even larger market as the World Cup begins, pushing the theme that Mexico is in effect, the club the U.S. fan base could and should be rooting for.

The question is, will other brands already engaged now find a way to ride the Mexican wave, not just with the National team but with Liga MX?

That push by Wells Fargo (@WellsFargo) (see below), also a sponsor of the U.S. Men’s National Team, drew a great deal of fire over the weekend, as the campaign included American legend Donovan using the social space to push the following of El Tri, something which some soccer loyalists saw as blasphemous.

Really? Given the fact that Donovan is of Mexican heritage, grew up outside of LA in a mixed Latino neighborhood, and played in Liga MX last year, it actually seems like a great play and great timing for Wells Fargo, who has Donovan on their team as a paid endorser as well. Add in that the joint bid for World Cup 2026 was now set and the fact that the USMNT was NOT in the field, there is great validity to use the window of Mexico’s success and popularity with an American figure who can transcend cultures and casual fans to draw awareness for a sport that needs to grow.

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For Wells Fargo the buzz in the social space probably got them more exposure than was even expected, and given the spotlight that will now be on Mexico in the coming weeks, that’s a good thing. The question is, will other brands already engaged now find a way to ride the Mexican wave, not just with the National team but with Liga MX (@LigaMxEng), which is already the most watched professional league in the United States for soccer?

“The interest in World Cup, even without the U.S. being in this time, is still huge, and it will continue to grow in the next few weeks, so the brands that found their way in and are ready to activate even more, will do well,” said Chris Lencheski, veteran sports marketer now at M.P & Silva (@MPSworldwide), and professor at Columbia University. “This type of ‘controversy’ is good for all, and if I am a company that has invested and can activate locally, especially in those markets where you know there is a solid following already, the time to strike is now.”

For their part, both Donovan and Wells Fargo did a good job of diffusing the controversy on his participation through his social following. Whether fans continue to see this as some sort of sellout by an American asking for fans to support a rival is really trivial, as Mexico’s success will undoubtedly bring more casual eyeballs than complainers, and frankly, the casual American soccer fan needs someone to root for, so why not Mexico?

As we sit in the midst of group play, Mexico’s brand value may never be brighter for soccer marketers, buffeted by World Cup early success and welcome news for the future, and the well-placed buzz by a participating brand with an established star that caused some fun disruption in the marketplace.

Will other partners now look to push the opportunity even more? There is a solid lineup in place, we will watch and see who scores.

What: Comcast this week announced a bilingual video experience integrating Fox and Telemundo World Cup coverage.
Why it matters: This will be a great test for soccer fans who may have had to turn down the volume and follow their favorite brands when the language, especially Spanish, did not fit the household.

We inch closer to the World Cup starting June 14, and the power of the Multicultural audience in the U.S. as a driver continues to come into focus even more. Both the Spanish language and English first Latino sports consumer is going to be a key driver in ROI for a global event that is heavy on Latin American nations and short on countries like the U.S. and Canada, and while FOX maintains that the “melting pot” mentality, where the Anglo consumer will build an affinity around the country from where he or she ultimately immigrated from, will be key, it is clear that Latino engagement is essential for success.

Latest case in point came Wednesday, when Comcast’s Xfinity X1 (@Xfinitycable platform announced a bilingual FIFA World Cup viewing experience, with video features that integrate both Fox’s and Telemundo’s coverage of the June 14-July 15 tournament in Russia.

Screens, menus and voice commands will be available in both English and Spanish, with full-game replays, highlights, web video, real-time analytics and on-screen stats rounding out the experience. Also, Xfinity for the first time is adding sports notifications for TV and mobile. It will be a great test for fans of the sport who may have had to turn down the volume and follow their favorite brands when the language, especially Spanish, did not fit the household.

No matter what the language, quality live sports remain king, and platforms like this can unite audience numbers, rather than divide them.

Now of course we have had SAP as an element in broadcast across the U.S. for most events for years, but this integration is a new next step for those who want to dial back and forth and immerse either in their adopted or their native language. If it works, and brands find scale, it can roll out to other sports, especially MLB and the NBA, and it can be a new and important engagement for brands who have struggled to find the common ground with Latino sports engagement in a multilingual environment.

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Comcast Cable Exec Dir of Product Management Jason Angelides told Sports Business Daily that international events like the World Cup highlight the “changing demographics of TV viewing audiences — particularly underscoring the increasingly important and growing base of bicultural households in the U.S.” — and X1 allows the company to “build viewing experiences customized” for that population.

“We are moving more and more into a world where niche audience engagement matter more and more, and the World Cup is going to be a great showcase for broadcasters and brands who realize that a fast growing audience, the Latino market, is less niche and more mainstream and growing and powerful than ever before,” said Chris Lencheski, veteran marketer and professor at Columbia University. “No matter what the language, quality live sports remain king, and platforms like this can unite audience numbers, rather than divide them.”

Will this World Cup be the one that opens larger doors for the Latino audience and brands who have been risk averse to engage? The opportunity appears to be growing.

Cover Image: Wikimedia Commons/Danilo Borges-Portal da Copa

What: FIFA has reviewed (markedly different) bids from Morocco and North America for the 2026 World Cup.
Why it matters: Initial signs point towards the United 2026 bid, and as that gains traction, marketers can plan for increased interest here.

Will the combined bid for North America for the 2026 World Cup become reality? FIFA looks like they are moving closer to that decision.

FIFA last week reviewed bid reports from the two main groups seeking to host the 2026 World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup)—Morocco and a United bid from the U.S.-Canada-Mexico—and published a 224-page report that states, “The Morocco 2026 bid and United 2026 bid represent almost two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the nature of their bids.”

The joint bid would create a forecasted US $14.3 billion in revenue for FIFA, the Morocco bid forecasted US $7.2 billion for what would be the first 48-nation event in FIFA World Cup history.

For U.S. brands heavily invested in soccer, like Coca-Cola, the awarding of the bid would be a positive shot after getting a setback with the U.S. not qualifying for this year’s World Cup in Russia.

United 2026 (@united2026 ‏) said that of the 23 potential stadiums that might be used for matches, 17 currently exist and need no major renovation for the World Cup, and the remaining six are built but are due for renovation.

“The United 2026 bid has a clear lead in this area, with all major infrastructure already in place, allowing FIFA to focus on a number of exciting initiatives relating to sports science, fan engagement, multi-media integration and other new forms of digitalization,” according to the FIFA committee.

“The amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become a reality cannot be overstated.” There were 20 categories, from revenue and marketing to legalities, transportation, security, and stadiums discussed.

The United 2026 bid had no “High” risk tags and just three deemed as “Medium”: Organizing costs, legal and government support and human rights and labor standard. The United 2026 bid had “Low” risks in the 17 other categories.

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“The Morocco 2026 bid is well presented and strong in terms of government commitment, but would need to newly build most of its tournament-related and wider infrastructure,” according to the report. “The United 2026 bid, on the other hand, has promising levels of infrastructure already in place and fully operational.”

“While single bids offer some advantages in terms of having just one host member association and one host country government, it should be noted that FIFA anticipated the possibility of joint bids —which offer the advantage of scale— when it decided to expand the format of the tournament to include 48 teams.”

Of the 80 matches to be played in the expanded tournament, under the United bid, 10 would be held in Canada, 10 in Mexico and 60 across the U.S.

This comes right after several soccer officials attending Leaders Week in N.Y. expressed great concern about the United bid, because of the anti-immigration policy currently being pushed by the Trump White House. “The World Cup has to be a global event where people from all countries are welcomed, and the current administration doesn’t see that,” one European soccer official said. “Unless something changes that’s going to be an issue for some countries when the vote comes around.”

Others were quick to point out that the current administration, even with a reelection, would not be in place in 2026, but the anti-immigration issue can still be a factor for the voters now. “It is very unhealthy, especially given the makeup of those of influence in FIFA, we hope that is not the case.”

For U.S. brands heavily invested in soccer, like Coca-Cola, the awarding of the bid would be a positive shot after getting a setback with the U.S. not qualifying for this year’s World Cup in Russia. It would also be a positive step forward for the clubs who have now opened offices in the US and are looking to engage even deeper in soccer in the U.S. Paris St. Germain recently became the seventh club to open an office in the U.S. looking to expand their brand into the U.S. business community. The bid win would also be a hugely positive step forward for Soccer United marketing and all those engaged in the business in the U.S. and Mexico, which officials still see as the fastest growing soccer market in the world, on par with China.

There are still many questions to be answered until the bid is awarded in the coming weeks, however for now, FIFA appears to be looking west for their next news, and that’s great news for all involved in the business.

cover image: Wikimedia Commons/Shine 2010

What: David Villa’s production company Designated Player and Telemundo Deportes will create content during FIFA World Cup.
Why it matters: In what can develop into a Spanish “Players’ Tribune,” leveraging World Cup content can be a big boost for DP.

Designated Player (@DsignatedPlayer), the production company of Spain and New York City FC soccer star David Villa (@Guaje7Villa), is partnering with Spanish-language U.S. broadcaster Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) to create content during the upcoming FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCupin Russia.

Villa, 36, will narrate a video series called Como Llegaron (“how they got there”), which will look back at the qualifying campaigns of Spain, Portugal and the eight Latin American countries competing at the international soccer tournament.

We’re committed to providing fans with the best and most authentic content around the World Cup, and those efforts are only enhanced by partnering with such an accomplished player like Villa.

In addition, the NYCFC star will conduct a series of in-depth interviews with players participating at the competition, including his former club and international teammate Andres Iniesta, France star Antoine Griezmann, and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The content will be published across all of Telemundo’s platforms, including social media. The NBC-owned firm has rights to the World Cup until 2026, and also has a deal for this year’s tournament in place with soccer media company Copa90.

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“We’re committed to providing fans with the best and most authentic content around the World Cup, and those efforts are only enhanced by partnering with such an accomplished player like Villa,” said Ray Warren, president of Telemundo Deportes said this week.

Villa has won both the World Cup and UEFA European Championship with Spain. He has also won La Liga (@LaLigaEN), Spanish soccer’s top flight, three times, and has three Copa del Rey winners medals. He is now a key member of NYCFC’s rise in Major League Soccer.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia/Jan S0L0
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