What: Mexican National Soccer Team supporter fan group “Pancho Villa’s Army” (PVA) has expanded its base and developed strong relationships with U.S. marketers in advance of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
Why It Matters: Passionate organizations like the U.S.-based PVA are ideal for many companies looking to reach the important Hispanic fan base.

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This year’s international soccer calendar is filled with important tournaments around the world, but the most anticipated competition for aficionados, casual fans, and marketers is the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Official partners and sponsors like Coca-Cola, Hyundai, and Adidas will leverage their massive sponsorship deals to connect with consumers before and during the month-long competition.

One of the most desired groups in the U.S. for brands is the Latino soccer fan, specifically the Mexican fan who will passionately follow El Tri throughout the squad’s run to the championship match. According to a 2017 Univision-commissioned study conducted by Nielsen, “Los Fanaticos: Passion and Power”, 80% of Hispanic sports fans say that sports are their favorite thing to talk about (11% more than non-Hispanic fans). This is witnessed yearly when the Mexican national soccer team plays a number of friendly matches as part of its almost-now-required tour of the U.S., selling out venues to the delight of the brands who pay hefty sums to sponsor it.

 [Pancho Villa’s Army] has caught the eye of marketers like beer brand Estrella Jalisco, who recently reached an agreement with PVA to partner on a variety of events and promotions.

Enter Pancho Villa’s Army (@VillasArmy), the U.S.-based fan group supporting the Mexican national soccer team founded in 2013 by Mexican-American Sergio Tristan, who was looking to connect with like-minded fans to cheer on El Tri. The group has now 30 chapters with more than 3,000 members and 47,000 followers on Facebook, and they attend en masse just about every game Mexico plays in the U.S. They have caught the eye of marketers like beer brand Estrella Jalisco who recently reached an agreement with PVA to partner on a variety of events and promotions for Mexico’s 2018 U.S. tour and through the World Cup. They also have a two-year sponsorship deal with Nissan that started last year; Tristan has even been featured in an ad for the automaker.

The group garnered national and international media coverage when, during a 2015 Confederations Cup playoff match in Los Angeles between Mexico and the U.S., they unfurled a massive, three section wide, Mexican flag inspired banner that read “Sigo Siendo el Rey” (“I’m still the king”). That phrase quickly became a trending topic as #SigoSiendoElRey on Twitter.

Authenticity is a buzz word that is used a lot in marketing circles, but that’s what consumers are looking for: a brand that understands and connects with them through a passion point that gets to the core of who they are culturally. In the case of Estrella Jalisco and Nissan, soccer is the means to reach the Mexican fan in the U.S., and Pancho Villa’s Army is an authentic community partner that makes the connection deeper.

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Joe Favorito has over 32 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. The Brooklyn, New York native has managed the day-to- day activities in strategic communications for: Two of the world’s hallmark sports and entertainment brands (the New York Knickerbockers and Philadelphia 76ers), the world’s largest professional sport for women (the WTA Tour), the world’s largest sports National Governing Body (the United States Tennis Association) and the world’s largest annual sporting event (the US Open). He also oversaw the strategic planning, investor relations, communications and digital business development of the International Fight League during its two year run as a Mixed Martial Arts venture and a publicly traded company. Favorito serves on the boards of the Weinstein Carnegie Group, New York Sports Venture Capital, the National Sports Marketing Network, the Drexel University Sports Business program, and Columbia University’s Sports Management program (where he is an instructor in Strategic Communications and Director of Industry Relations). Joe also maintains a well trafficked blog on the sports marketing and publicity field, “Sports Marketing and PR Roundup,” on the website joefavorito.com, as well authoring the first- ever text on the sports publicity industry (“Sports Publicity” published in August 2007 by Reed Elsevier and updated in 2012 by Taylor Publishing with a third printing coming in 2018), which is used in over 60 sports management programs in the U.S. He has been a guest speaker on sports marketing, social media and communications at a host of institutions, including Princeton University, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, the University of Florida Law School, New York University, the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and many others. He is also a frequent spokesperson on the industry for publications ranging from Ad Age and The New York Times to NPR and CBS News. A graduate of Fordham University, Joe, his wife and two children reside in River Vale, New Jersey.

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