What?: Mexican soccer teams are being paid millions of dollars for broadcasting rights in the U.S.
Why it matters?: Broadcast channels in the U.S. are spending millions of dollars a year to obtain the rights to transmit Mexican soccer games in an effort to reach the 35 million Hispanics of Mexican descent living in the U.S. (Note: This article is a revised version of an article included in Portada’s 2016 Sports Marketing Guide, to get the full version, DOWNLOAD it here).
In 2013, Chivas, Guadalajara’s main football club, signed a $16 million-dollar deal with Univisión to broadcast their regular season games in the United States until 2018. This contract surpassed the team’s last agreement with Telemundo, who paid them $11 million for the rights from 2008 to 2013. With these numbers, Chivas has positioned itself as the highest-paid team for broadcasting games in the U.S (see table below)., ranked even above the entire Mexican national league, Liga MX, which is paid US$12 million a year by Univisión/ESPN to broadcast its games in English and Spanish.
Chivas is just one example of a Mexican soccer team that has its eye on the U.S. market. El America, Cruz Azul and Pumas are paid $15, $11 and $10 million dollars a year for the U.S. rights, respectively. Broadcast networks like Grupo Azteca are investing substantial amounts of money to shore up their soccer offerings.
“With more than 35 million Hispanics of Mexican descent living in the U.S., it is easy to understand why Mexican soccer teams decided to promote their audience there. The Liga MX even gets the highest audience rate of all games,” says Vicente Navarro, VP of business development at AC&M Group, a Hispanic and soccer marketing agency.
Good Things Happen North of the Border
|Team||TV Channel||Deal||Yearly income in|
Source: Wikipedia and Portada
Note: Mexico’s major soccer teams and their broadcast rights in the U.S.
According to Jorge Villalobos, CEO of Sports Marketing Monterrey, selling broadcast rights to American media channels is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The soccer team obtains more exposure (apart from being paid well), the TV channel gets quality content, the advertising companies have a platform on which to sell their content, and the fans are able to see their teams play.
There are many sports channels in the U.S. and most of them designate a bigger part of their broadcasting time to soccer, not only in Spanish but also in English, says Villalobos. “This is an industry that is evolving, and as the U.S. audience is becoming more sophisticated, it demands better quality.” The evolution of American audiences has to be reflected in the channels’ content, and if an audience is interested in Mexican soccer, the channels will do what it takes to show it.
Some years ago, it was crazy to think that the media would broadcast even 20% of the Mexican season’s friendly soccer games: All of the games that we play in the U.S. are transmitted not only nationally but also in Mexico and 20 other countries,” says Villalobos. What’s more, El Tri, Mexico’s national soccer team, plays more games in the U.S. than in Mexico.
Selling to an American Audience
Only 10 days ago Univision Deportes broadcast the Campeón de Campeones match (Champion of Champions) with Honda as title sponsor. The winners of the two most recent Liga MX seasons played against each other. Tellingly the match was not played in Mexico, but Dominguez Hills-Carson, CA.
“Soccer advertisers keep growing in the U.S.,” says Villalobos. “There are more and more brands that see soccer as their best tool to reach the Hispanic market and connect with it.” For this reason, agencies like Sports Marketing Monterrey are focusing on bringing Mexican soccer and brands closer, not only through advertising but also through other experiences like events and special promotions.
“The average income in the U.S. is much higher than in Mexico,” admits Navarro. “This also means that the fans have a higher purchasing power to buy stuff from their favourite teams.”
Still “it is not a secret that the fans have stopped spending their money on ‘things,’ because now, they want experiences,” admits Villalobos. So, when bringing a team to the U.S., the commercial relationship does not end after the game: the brands are sponsoring other events, too, for autograph signing or meet-and-greets with players, for example.
But brands cannot forget that U.S. Hispanics behave differently than Mexicans do in their home country. It is a mistake to think that one can apply the same campaign used during a soccer game in Mexico in the U.S., because “it is a different target and you have to discover how to reach it,” adds Villalobos.
According to Navarro, selling broadcast rights to U.S. channels doesn’t represent a risk at all for the teams. “It could be risky for the companies buying the rights, or for the marketing agencies paying for advertising, if the team is having a terrible season,” he adds. “But, in general, the teams can bring in great revenue because they are already a strong global brand.”