Soccer Marketing to Latinos Starts at the Grassroots

What: Super Soccer Stars, a growing grassroots program looking to build the game in 24 cities in 13 states, has hired longtime sports marketer Adam Geisler as CEO.
Why it matters: The organization can serve as a blueprint for matching support of youth soccer with marketing opportunities for brands also looking to grow the sport.

There is no doubt that the world’s soccer powers see North America as the next unconquered land in terms of fan and brand engagement and talent development. However much of that engagement starts, as Major League Soccer (@MLShas learned, at the grassroots. Getting young people to engage in the game, understand the game, and be active builds fans for life, and that is key in every community, especially among Latinos who may have a cultural affinity for the game.

One of the key groups that has done that engagement at the youth level really well is Super Soccer Stars (@SuperSoccerNY).

Founded in 2000, Super Soccer Stars is the largest grassroots program in New York City and also features locations in 24 cities in 13 different states reaching 150,000 children. The mission is to focus on a healthy lifestyle and basic athletic skills development while having fun and building self-confidence and teamwork. Soccer Super Stars’ custom coaching and player development modules are designed for players from 12 months up to 8 years of age and various skill levels. They recently also made a key addition on the business side, adding sports marketing veteran Adam Geisler as CEO. Geisler, whose background includes building brands like Everlast (@Everlast_and MISSION (@MissionAthlete), will be charged with figuring out how to harness that grassroots power, as well as the data that exists to grow not just the business, but the grassroots soccer community as one.

How does all that data, and all that engagement play out with young Latinos? Pretty well: so we asked Super Soccer Stars COO Sarah Natchez, and Dean Simpson, their Chief Programs Officer, to break it down for us.

Sarah Natchez

Portada: There is so much being talked about in terms of soccer growth in this country, how important at the grassroots level is the Latino demo, in terms of families and young kids?

Sarah Natchez: Soccer is often an intrinsic part of the culture at home in Latino communities—it is watched on TV, reinforced in the home, and a soccer ball is the first gift given to a child. Since Super Soccer Stars focuses on early skill development starting as young as 1 year old in an environment that promotes deliberate play, it speaks directly to the interests of families and young kids in the Latino demo.

Portada: Many may think it is easier to engage with young Latinos because of their potential affinity for soccer because of past generations. However, competition is still tough for disposable income and time. How does Super Soccer Stars cut through that clutter?

SN: Simply put: quality programming. With elite coaches and content, we are able to cut through the clutter by focusing on delivering the highest quality instruction. We also have a diverse and geographically broad schedule making our programming easy to access despite families’ hectic schedules and time commitments.

Portada: “Latino” means many things other than Spanish speaking. Does teaching a different type of soccer at the youth level, Mexican vs. Brazilian, really matter?

Dean Simpson: Diversity is key and having coaches who bring a unique patience, energy and creative flair to every session allows plays to take educated risks in an open environment. Having coaches who share two passions: a passion for soccer and a passion for working with children. Within this framework, brings an eclectic mix of talents and backgrounds: Latino coaches have a tenancy to have more of an attacking mindset, but the game is constantly evolving and having coaches who in general want to focus on ball pay, and ball mastery is key to youth development. Focusing on the individual first, evolve to a partner play and then ultimately the team within the unit as the group gets older.

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.

Portada: The company is very well embedded in inner cities. How valuable is that marketplace?

SN: It’s important for us to make Super Soccer Stars accessible to all communities. Inner cities often have highly skilled youth who do not have regular access to paid sports activities. We develop local partnerships to ensure that our programming is available to inner-city youth and gives them the opportunity to develop their talents.

Portada: Lastly, there is a great emphasis to develop healthy young people across all cultures. What are the best practices that the company is continuing to build upon in the cities like Miami where their roots are so deep?

SN: Since soccer is the gateway sport, we focus on building a comprehensive curriculum that includes a focus on nutrition, developing gross motor skills, and has a core emphasis on teamwork and building self-confidence. Having this holistic approach enables us to develop healthy young people across all cultures.

We keep our marketing efforts consistent across all demographics; however, we do often translate our collateral into Spanish in Miami and certain New York City communities.

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