Mexican Banks’ New Strategy: Sports Sponsorships

What: Mexican banks like Banamex, BBVA Bancomer and Santander say that sports sponsorships are taking on an increasingly important role in their marketing strategies.
Why it matters: This trend has been observed in other sports as well, like Formula 1 racing and baseball.

Nowadays, staying top-of-mind is vital for many companies, both for reaching out to current clients as much as potential ones. Sports, in this sense, have become a perfect ally for many brands, as they are capable of bringing together a large number of people around a specific activity. Mexican banks are capitalizing on this in hopes that their sports sponsorships will boost their marketing efforts.

Being associated with any sport “helps positioning the bank and generates a link between our clients and their passions,” says Gerardo Serrador, Marketing Executive Director at Banco Santander Mexico.

“In addition to generating passion, sports represent the same values that our brand identifies with: teamwork, excellence and fair play,” adds Mauricio Pallares Coello, Director of Corporate Marketing at BBVA Bancomer. “As a branding strategy, a sports sponsorship is profitable because the massive nature of sports makes the brand more noticeable.” Seeing that soccer is by far the most popular sport in Mexico, it makes perfect sense that banks would want in on the action.

The sports that have more penetration are the most profitable. In Mexico, soccer is undoubtedly the sport with the most followers, and consequently, this is where the media allocates most of its content.

Because BBVA Bancomer is the largest bank in the country with the largest number of branches and ATMs, it went big and decided to sponsor the entire Mexican soccer league. The league covers all cities with football teams, both in the first division and the promotion league. In addition, the bank arranged a local sponsorship of Rayados of Monterrey, to target current and potential clients in the state.

Until 2015, Banamex had invested up to $200 million Mexican pesos in the effort, distributing the money among five teams in the Mexican league. But then the bank withdrew sponsorship last June. “We no longer have our money in club teams, but we remain a sponsor for the Mexican national team,” said David Fierro, Marketing VP at Banamex Citi Group.

Analysts suggested one of the bank’s motivations for dropping the sponsorship was a decrease in revenue caused by the SEC’s current investigation into claims that the bank made fraudulent loans to Mexican oil services company Oceanographic. On the other hand, after its main competitor BBVA Bancomer became the next MX League sponsor, continuing with the sponsorship made absolutely no sense.

Piloto Kimi Raikkonen
Piloto Kimi Raikkonen

But soccer isn’t everything. “Santander is mainly focused on two sports: Soccer and Formula 1. With respect to soccer, the company concentrates on the most important regional competitions like Copa Libertadores and Copa America, which have a direct impact on countries in which the bank has a presence. But, we considered the Scuderia Ferrari (F1) sponsorship in order to have more of a global impact,” said Serrador.

The return of F1 to Mexico made the Scuderia Ferrari’s sponsorship profitable, according to Serrador. “A series of interesting promotions allowed us to position the brand as the most associated with F1 in Mexico.” According to a survey the bank carried out in cities like Mexico, Monterrey and Guadalajara, 53% of people who follow the F1 also mentioned Santander as the top-related brand to the event.

Lorena Ochoa

Banamex also continues supporting other sports. It is the sponsor of former golfer Lorena Ochoa, the goalkeeper Aida Roman, Paralympics athlete Gustavo Sanchez and Mexican baseball team Diablos Rojos. “The main priority is supporting sports figures,” explains Fierro, who says they have more sponsorship in mind for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

We do not consider ourselves an opportunistic entity that takes advantage of athletes only once they have reached the top,” added Fierro. For this reason, the bank plans to grant sport sponsorships to athletes who are just beginning their careers.

Reflecting on the bank’s past sports sponsorship strategies, the Santander executive believes that:

The best have been those in which we learned how to link our services and bank’s products with the benefits of the sponsorships offer, helping customers experience their passion for sports firsthand.

The three executives agree that sports and banks will remain associated through sponsorships, regardless of the sport. It’s a sweet deal: banks grow their brand awareness while athletes and sports team find much-needed financial support.