What: love.fútbol is a non-profit that mobilizes and engages communities to plan, build, manage, activate and redefine their own football pitches as sustainable platforms for social change.
Why it matters: World Cup is the perfect time for organizations like love.fútbol to connect with global brands to spread their messages and maximize their visibility.

We have seen the impact “The Beautiful Game” has on communities big and small, especially around World Cup this month. How can one create bigger initiatives tied to soccer, from the grassroots to the biggest stars, whether the Cup is glowing or not? That’s where love.fútbol (@lovefutbolhas thrived.

We wanted to learn more about the organization’s mission, its origins and its success that continues to evolve, so we asked co-founder and CEO Drew Chafetz (@DrewChafetzto tell the story.

Portada-Online: What was the genesis of love.fútbol as a brand?

Drew Chafetz: “The idea for love.fútbol was conceived in December 2005 while traveling through a small town in central Morocco. I came across a small group of young children playing soccer in a back alleyway that had a dangerous canal running lengthwise through their makeshift pitch. I have been very grateful in my life to soccer and the inherent benefits that playing the game gave me, and had been fortunate to travel extensively as a child connecting with kids my age through the game. For the first time it occurred to me that children might not have a safe place to go to play soccer. This simple game is a fundamental opportunity for youth around the world and ensuring it is the premise of our mission and organization.

The love.fútbol brand stands for the global connection we have through passion for soccer. Across languages, cultures, religions, economics, race and all else that may divide us, there are universal mediums of self-expression – like sport, art, music and dance – that remind us of our shared humanity. The “dot” in our name represents this global connection we have through soccer, and more expansively through sport, but also serves as a pivot point to embrace and represent other mediums of self-expression that bond us.”

Portada: Where have you seen the greatest impact?

Drew Chafetz

D.C.: “The communities we serve drive love.fútbol sports infrastructure projects. As a result, the greatest impact we see comes from community engagement. On average, locals invest 2,500 volunteer hours to make each safe space a reality. As a result, spaces become tangible symbols of collective strength and success for the community and the impact is much further reaching. Sports spaces become centers of community that host long-term youth development programs through partnerships with local NGOs, diverse events and activities, and can include multiple revenue streams to sustain the space and programs through social enterprise.”

To play and have passion is a fundamental opportunity to connect with oneself, one’s community and the world.

Portada: The Latino fan base is going to be key in the US for World Cup growth, why is it so powerful, and untapped, by sports business in the US?

D.C.: “Regardless of where you go, brands must find a way to connect with consumers on an emotional level, which often means making impact on the community level. There is great need for community sports spaces in lower-income communities across Central and South America, as well as at home here in the USA. Sport can help us make these connections to original and second-generation immigrant communities that are deeply connected to their home countries, but living in the USA.”

Portada: How can and do brands tie to your programs?

D.C.: “Since 2010, brands such as ESPN (@espn), Coca-Cola (@CocaCola), Unilever (@Unilever), Under Armour (@UnderArmour), UEFA (@UEFAand Manchester City (@ManCity), have sponsored love.fútbol projects around the world. We align social impact and a more sustainable approach to the development of sports facilities with priority markets of our brand partners. Sponsors benefit from enhanced PR and community relations, unique storytelling and content, and a turnkey opportunity to engage local offices, employees and stakeholders as active partners in each project. For example, hundreds of ESPN employee volunteers from local offices in Rio, Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Mexico City, Bogotá and Bangalore have gotten their hands dirty alongside locals on community build days.”

Portada: You have many examples of how soccer has changed the lives of young people through your program; give us one or two examples.

D.C.: “Together with ESPN, love.fútbol has built multi-sport courts in six communities across three continents and mobilized more than 1,280 community members who contributed over 7,600 volunteer hours to the projects. These spaces are used every day and benefit close to 6,000 children and young adults, and indirectly their families. In each community, local NGOs were trained to deliver long-term programs using sport to teach life and job skills delivered to 1,237 youth, 68% of whom graduated from the program, and a majority of which went onto gain employment or further their formal education.

We are happy to share a full impact report with any interested parties.”

Portada: Why is sport, especially soccer, such a powerful element in positively impacting lives?

D.C.: “With more than three billion fans, soccer is the world’s most popular sport and is deeply embedded within the culture of communities across the globe. The game’s great strength is its simplicity — that it can be played almost anywhere, allowing children to be creative and play despite sometimes highly challenging circumstances around them. To play and have passion is a fundamental opportunity to connect with oneself, one’s community and the world.

Beyond the inherent health and life skills benefits of playing sports, such as teamwork, leadership and discipline, sport has great power to serve as a hook for grabbing people’s attention and energy that can then be channeled in new directions. In our sector of sport for social development, myriad social impact outcomes are delivered through curriculum-based programs that focus on health education, job training, peacebuilding, gender equality, and helping the homeless get themselves back on their feet, to name a few examples. A sports space with community ownership can be used to address any given community’s most pressing social needs.”

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Portada: How can you use the power of the World Cup to grow your efforts?

D.C.: “Soccer gives us a lot and throughout the world people are grateful. We believe there is no clearer way to give back to the game than provide youth the opportunity to play. The World Cup is the pinnacle opportunity for the ecosystem of sport, business and society to come together around this ideal. We work with players, fans and brands to raise awareness, sponsor projects and build community through sport. love.fútbol was named as an official partner of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, so we are excited to play a more formal role in four years!”

Portada: Where do you think love.fútbol can be in say, three years, as an element of social change?

D.C.: “love.fútbol is the global leader in mobilizing and empowering communities to create sustainable sports spaces as platforms for long-term social change. Right now, we are working to scale our methodology to reach more communities and strengthen our leadership role in the sport for development sector through helping organizations reach more youth with their programs. Every neighborhood around the world stands to benefit from the power of sport – we aspire to help communities reach this potential.”

Cover image: love.fútbol inauguration day festivities in El Coyolito, Mexico City, with project sponsor Manchester City

What: The MLBPA has announced the donation of more than a quarter million dollars through its Trust to Project C.U.R.E. in Mexico.
Why it matters: In conjunction with the highly successful MLB Mexico Series, and Latinos among MLBPA membership at an all-time high, connecting to the fan and player base through charity is critical.

The excitement of the MLB Mexico Series this weekend between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers in Monterrey, which players like Guadalajara native Christian Villanueva (@Villa_at_3B ‏) of the Padres have described as “a dream come true,” in much the same way as Puerto Rican superstars Francisco Lindor (@Lindor12BCof Cleveland and José Berríos (@JOLaMaKina ‏) described their experience at MLB Puerto Rico last month, has had another tangible effect on the league and its players. The MLB Players Association (MLBPA), through its Players Trust (@MLBPlayersTrust), on Saturday announced a collective donation of US $229,000 to Project C.U.R.E. and its partners in Mexico, to benefit two hospitals badly damaged in earthquakes last year.

With MLB’s player rosters adding more of a Latin flavor every year, projects like these benefit the local regions but also solidify the ties between the association and its members.

The player’s group’s initiative, known as “Returning Home,” has had natural connections in the two series that MLB has played in the two Latin American locales this year. With MLB’s player rosters adding more of a Latin flavor every year, projects like these benefit the local regions but also solidify the ties between the association and its members, many of whom have families and friends affected by the kinds of disasters that these funds benefit.

“Project C.U.R.E. has the honor of working with MLBPA, representing its players, and our partner, Fundación Curando México, to provide health and hope to Mexico,” said Dr. Douglas Jackson, President and CEO of Project CURE, in a translated statement. “We understand the difficulties underway in health centers throughout Mexico and we hope to bring medical supplies. and much needed equipment to these medical providers so that they can provide good care to their patients.”

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The Players Trust is an important initiative of MLBPA (@MLB_PLAYERS), combining monetary donations with contributions of players’ time and celebrity to benefit important causes like these. With baseball a global game more than ever (extending to games in London next year, as recently announced), having the association and the league involved in places where fans and players thrive is critical.

What: Jorge Posada, Carlos Beltran, and T.J. Rivera were honored at Tuesday night’s Thurman Munson Awards Dinner in New York, highlighting the baseball brand in a multicultural market.
Why it matters: The selection of three top Puerto Rican athletes for this prestigious honor is a testament to the power of Hispanic stars across all lines, in the sport and in cause-marketing efforts.

There they were at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Tuesday night in New York: three great ambassadors of baseball together for a key cause. They were conversing with a throng of media members in both English and Spanish and flowing back and forth between the two languages and cultures with ease.

Jorge Posada interviewed by PIX11’s Andy Adler

Yankees great Jorge Posada; former Mets, and Yankees outfielder and Houston Astros World Series champion Carlos Beltran (@carlosbeltran15); as well as New York Mets infielder and Bronx product T.J. Rivera (@TJ_Rivera_); were honored at the 38th Annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner to benefit AHRC New York City Foundation. The organization assists children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. However, what they all really represented (all with Puerto Rican ties), was the great value that exists for baseball as a brand to seamlessly connect Anglo and Latino cultures in the biggest markets in North America.

Multicultural representation

“We are proud of our heritage and of the sport we played, and there is nothing more important than being an example for the next generation, whether that is in business or baseball,” Beltran said before the dinner, which was emceed by New York Yankees announcer Michael Kay. “Baseball is a business that crosses cultures better than any other. It has really helped the people of Puerto Rico unite with the ongoing issues there. We see what great power it has to bring out the best in everyone. It’s much more than a game to us, no matter where our fans are from.”

The universal language of cause marketing is also key for both the Latino and English speaking audience as well. That cause-and-effect was not lost on all those in attendance for the Munson dinner.

The power to unite

That power to unite and build is also not lost on another influential figure in attendance, said longtime New York Yankees advisor, media member and award-winning author Ray Negron. Negron, who has the unique distinction of hosting a talk show in both English and Spanish in New York each week on ESPN Deportes (the only show of its kind in the U.S.), has worked for years with Latino athletes and celebrities in finding a mix of cultures that translates to brand activation as well.

“We are seeing it more and more with crossover stars like Carlos and Jorge, and new faces like Carlos Correa and others. They are conversant in two cultures. That convergence is becoming more acceptable to brands who see ways to integrate into both a Latino and Anglo fan base more seamlessly,” Negron added. “I see it when brands come to our show. Brands like Verizon and Goya. They see the opportunity to reach a Latino base that loves the culture but speaks English as a first language. Sports, especially baseball, is the best entry point into that cross-culture now.”

–> Read also in Portada: Leaders Agree: Baseball’s Latino Stars Set to Take Center Stage in Business Too

Cause Marketing

Ray Negron

The universal language of cause marketing is also key for both the Latino and English speaking audience as well. All those in attendance for the Munson dinner were aware of that cause-effect. Bringing brands together to work for a greater good also knows no language barrier.

“When disaster strikes and the stars turn out, there is no question what language they speak. It’s the language of love,” Negron added. “That’s what I think brands want as well. They want to see their names tied to social good. The athletes here tonight are all about the cause and doing what’s right to use their fame to help others. It’s quite a gift.”

Negron believes that that gift will continue to give as baseball becomes more engaged in multilingual brand pursuits. Meanwhile, brands continue to get more comfortable with unlocking the power of the Latino community through baseball.

“Baseball is a 24/7 sport. The continued influx of affluent Latinos to the United States, as well as the efforts made through social media to export the product of MLB to other areas of the Spanish speaking world, has a huge upside for brands that take the time to embrace the opportunity,” he added. “You see the star power that these veterans have, and their ability to make an impact for companies and for the community not in one but in two languages, so why not take advantage of it?”

A great question, and one that will continue to get our attention as we head toward Opening Day in March.

What: Three Puerto Rican standouts will receive the Munson Awards during the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner, a fund-raising event that has taken place annually for 38 years.
Why It Matters: There will be a strong Hispanic presence at an event which is important because not only does it honor the most valuable baseball players, it also sheds light on their humanitarian efforts.

Annually, one of the biggest events of the baseball off-season is the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner, remembering the great Yankees catcher. For 38 years, the dinner has raised funds for AHRC New York City Foundation and honors great New York area stars for success and inspiration on the fields of play, and community spirit off the field.

On February 6, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, three Puerto Rican standouts will be among the honorees, as Carlos Beltran, Jorge Posada and T.J. Rivera will receive the coveted Munson Awards.

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Both Posada and Beltran have spearheaded Hurricane Relief efforts for victims in their native Puerto Rico; the Jorge Posada Foundation assists those afflicted with Craniosynostosis, while the Carlos Beltran Foundation empowers young people to reach their dreams through sports and education. Rivera was the Mets nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for his community efforts, notably at his alma mater, Lehman H.S. in the Bronx.

Honoring Unparalleled Baseball Careers

Beltran had 10 years in New York, including seven in Mets Orange and Blue, when he swatted 149 home runs and swiped 100 bases, slashing .280/.369/.500 in 830 games. In all, he hit 435 home runs and drove in 1084 runs in a 20-year career that concluded with his retirement after winning his first World Series with Houston last year.

Posada’s 17-year career, all in Pinstripes, produced 275 home runs and 1064 RBI, along with five championships. One of the “Core Four,” Posada was a five-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger, hitting .273 in more than 1800 career games.

Both Posada and Beltran have spearheaded hurricane relief efforts for victims in their native Puerto Rico.

Rivera slashed .290/.330/.430 last year in 73 games split between third, first, second and left field for the Mets. He hit five home runs and drove in 27. The native New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage has defied logic of an undrafted player climbing the ranks in the Mets organization to achieve MLB status.

Others to be honored that night include Yankees pitcher David Robertson and former Giants football standout Justin Tuck.

The AHRC New York City Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports programs enabling children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead richer, more productive lives, including programs of AHRC New York City.

For tickets and information on the Munson Awards Dinner call 212-249-6188 or email jennifer@emgbenefits.com.

(Beltran photo credit: AHRC; Posada photo credit: Keith Allison; Rivera photo credit: MLB)



What: Stuart Holden hosted a charity football match for Hurricane Harvey relief in Houston.
Why it matters: This event demonstrated how sponsors, athletes, and influencers can come together to make a difference.

Football Philanthropy

On Saturday night, United States soccer legends and celebrities alike joined together to play in a charity match titled “Kick In For Houston” to provide relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Stuart Holden, who starred for the Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo before moving to the English Premier League, organized the event. Holden leveraged his connections from his playing days as well as his star power from his current broadcasting position at Fox Sports 1 to fill the field with notable personalities. The match and a halftime penalty shootout, highlighted by former Olympic skier Bode Miller’s top corner strike, combined to raise over $250,000.

…influencers of all kinds can be used to draw eyes to charitable ventures as well as other domains of sports marketing.

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Famous Personalities Hit the Pitch

The list of names in attendance was quite impressive. Former national team players included Landon Donovan and Mia Hamm, and veteran Clint Dempsey showed that he has more left in the tank with a tremendous bicycle kick goal. In addition, plenty of athletes from other sports participated in the event. Recently crowned World Series champion Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros snuck onto the field at the end of the game despite his team’s request to fully rest, but the game was too enjoyable to resist. Also in attendance were former NBA MVP Steve Nash and Chad Ochocinco, formerly a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals. Notable as well was the presence social media sensation Jake Paul, who was voted the top YouTuber at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards, which shows how influencers of all kinds can be used to draw eyes to charitable ventures as well as other domains of sports marketing.

It was refreshing to see a media company support the philanthropic initiative of an employee.

Fox Sports Shows Support

Sponsors for the event included the Houston Dynamo, Esperos SOHO, and Adidas. Holden’s employer, FS1, showed a replay of the match on Sunday in order to bring further awareness to families still affected by Hurricane Harvey. It was refreshing to see a media company support the philanthropic initiative of an employee, especially one as genuinely invested in the Houston community as Holden.

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