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What: Zlatan Ibrahimović, Carlos Vela and Josef Martinez check in as the top three in sales on MLSstore.com to date in 2018.
Why it matters: That these and other Latino stars dominate the list reflects their popularity among not only Hispanic fans but soccer supporters in the U.S. as a whole.

As MLS (@MLSplayoffs get ready to kick in, it is interesting to see the rainbow of kits sold this season and who the fans are choosing to wear: Latino stars anyone?

Data released this week showed that Zlatan Ibrahimović’s (@Ibra_officialimpact on the league as a marketing opportunity was as big as it was on the field, as the 37-year-old led all sales on MLSstore.com since the beginning of 2018.

Ibrahimović beat crosstown rival Carlos Vela (@11carlosV), of LAFC, for the top spot. Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez (@JosefMartinez17ranked third, while former England captain Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) was fourth despite not signing with DC United until July. Atlanta’s Miguel Almirón, who had the top-selling jersey, fell to fifth.

The Latino market … continues to be the prime growth spot for MLS in North America.

The list for 2018 was reflective of MLS global appeal, especially in the Latino demo, as 18 MLS designated players featured on the list, including David Villa, Ezequiel Barco (YDP), Diego Valeri, Diego Rossi (YDP), and Giovani dos Santos.

Seven of the 13 non-American countries making the list again show the power of the Latino audience to MLS: Mexico (Vela, Dos Santos), Venezuela (Martinez), Paraguay (Almirón), Spain (Villa), Argentina (Barco, Valeri, Hector Villalba, Luciano Acosta), Uruguay (Rossi), and Colombia (Darwin Quintero Jr., Diego Chara).

The still to be determined value for MLS remains keeping home grown stars in the United States, as the majority of the bestselling Americans are the more established stars returning home after lucrative and successful careers abroad.

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.

“Major League Soccer continues to find its way up the chain in sports business in the United States, and the appeal of having global stars, especially identifiable Latino stars, in the mix is a huge selling point overall,” said veteran marketer and Columbia University Chris Lencheski. “Will it help when the days of Christian Pulisic and others playing on the national team are in their prime and playing in the U.S.? For sure. However for now the appeal of multinational players is just as important, and that’s great news for anyone involved in the business of soccer in America, a business which is still finding its way on the growth curve.”

The Latino market, one which is very soccer savvy and is no stranger to watching and embracing top flight soccer, continues to be the prime growth spot for MLS in North America. While recent reports have indicated more connections to Liga MX, which remains the most viewed professional soccer on the continent, that fact that Latino stars from various countries are still ratcheting up business is a good sign, and one that bodes well as the postseason begins for soccer in America.

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Cover Image: Carlos Vela (LAFC.com)

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • Major League SoccerThe MLS has announced the introduction of shirt sleeve partners next season. According to The Athletic, the potential new deals could be worth anywhere between US$500,000 and US$1 million per year. The MLS league-wide kit supply deal with Adidas limits franchise shirt sponsorship to one main partner until 2023.

 

  • Spanish league La Liga launched an OTT subscription service in August that lets fans watch second-tier Spanish football matches for 3.45 a month or 17.29 a year on its TV app, LaLigaTV. La Liga is looking to take control of its own brands and broadcasting live games to audiences. Chief communications officer, Joris Evers, is not ruling out that La Liga’s top division matches might get broadcast on the platform someday as well.

 

  • The Canadian Premier League shared its plans for a first draft, as Canadian University soccer players have an opportunity to earn a spot on a CPL, in partnership with U SPORTS. This will allow an athlete with one to four years of eligibility remaining to play with a CPL club, while preserving their eligibility, in the spring and summer before returning to U SPORTS competition. A player draft will take place on Nov. 12 following the 2018 U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship at UBC in Vancouver.

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  • Sky Italia has acquired the exclusive coverage rights of the Premier League in Italy, for three more years. Its current deal is set to expire by the end of the current campaign. Sky Italia will broadcast over 235 matches a year from England’s top flight across its range of platforms.

 

  • AS RomaAS Roma has renewed its partnership with fashion brand Hugo Boss for the 2018/19 season. Hugo Boss will supply the club with exclusive term wear as well as formal club occasions. AS Roma won’t be the only well-dressed club, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Bayern Munich, as well as Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, all have deals with the fashion brand.

 

  • ASICS has locked a multi-year sponsorship deal with Spanish football star Andres Iniesta. The deal is part of the brand’s efforts to expand its football business and reach more audiences across Asia. The football player will support the brand through product placement and promotions.

 

  • The German Football Association and Fanatics have partnered to allow fans of the national team to have access to a greater range of products and wider availability. Fanatics will offer a shopping experience across both online and offline channels through the creation of a new global e-commerce platform, DFB Fanshop (fanshop.dfb.de) while also operating DFB retail outlets during home games.

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • Manchester CityManchester City partnered with esports organization Epsilon, to enter the FIFA 19 category for season four of the Gfinity Elite Series. A selection of players from City and Epsilon’s rosters of professional gamers will make up half of the team with the remaining players to be chosen through a draft.

 

  • Fifa is looking to increase women’s soccer by doubling worldwide participation to 60 million by 2026. The soccer governing body also talked about introducing a women’s equivalent to the men’s World Club Cup, which brings together the winners of each region’s continental tournament. This would become ‘Fifa Women’s World League’.

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  • FC Barcelona renewed its partnership with banking firm Samba, for five more years. The club is looking to strengthen its brand in the Middle East by adding “partners that are best suited to the values and traits that define its brand.”

 

  • Homestand SportsCanadian media company Homestand Sports locked a partnership with LaLiga to host a series of live interactive LaLiga themed Footy Talks events in key markets across Canada. Each event will feature engaging sports panels with top Canadian media following the latest in LaLiga news analysis.

 

  • BC Place, home of the Vancouver Whitecaps, has partnered with Ready and Bypass to become the first venue in North America to possess an app-free in-seat ordering facility. By scanning a unique QR code on the armrest of their seat fans can locate the order’s destination, before being taken directly to the menu. The user then places their order on their phone and pays using Bypass.

What: Southern New Hampshire University, a leader in online higher education, and MLS have instituted Rompe las Barreras, a job shadowing program for Hispanic high school students.
Why it matters: The program tying education, real-life experience and soccer can serve as a model for partnerships with tangible benefits to Latino students and brands, in this case, a university.

It’s always refreshing to see partnerships in sports that can deliver a unique ROI. Major League Soccer (@MLSand its Official Education Partner, Southern New Hampshire University (@SNHU), have come up with one that has some long-term implications with soccer fans, young Latinos and Latinas, and the issue of affordable and effective learning.

Rompe las Barreras is a job shadowing program offered to deserving Hispanic juniors and seniors in high school. It was in seven markets with eight clubs: New York Red Bulls, NYCFC, Philadelphia Union, D.C. United, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas, and LA Galaxy. Each Club either hosted or will soon be hosting, 10-16 students, to shadow club executives that work in their department of interest. The result is a hands-on, real-time benefit for the students that strengthens the ties of the clubs to the community well away from the pitch.

With how hard the sports industry is to break into, there is a shared understanding of once you’re in you should find ways to help others break through.

How has it worked? We asked Steve Thiel, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships for SNHU to walk us through.

Portada: From a marketing standpoint how and why did the program come about?

Steve Thiel: With Rompe Las Barreras (“Break through the Barriers”), we wanted to tap into the passion of the multicultural fan base of MLS and address some of these goals. Specifically, we felt that the excitement that Hispanic youth would have in visiting and being immersed in their local soccer team could be transformed into a day of learning, with students coming away from the experience with a more realistic sense of how education and effort can turn into fulfilling careers.

Portada: In terms of engagement what were the initial goals, and where have you gone at this point?

ST: First and foremost, this was the University’s first foray into Hispanic Heritage Month activities. We wanted to be respectful and find an authentic voice in this space, which ultimately sets the foundation for a long lasting commitment to this community. Second, we wanted to provide a seamless and enjoyable experience for the school administrators, students, and team front office staff. Finally, our goal was to tell stories across social and digital channels of these inspiring high schoolers who have already put themselves in positions to be successful in the future. We focused less on quantitative goals in this first year, but we’ll have some exciting benchmarks to utilize in the future.

Portada: What was the biggest surprise?

ST: The biggest surprise to us was how much the Clubs’ front office staff enjoyed these experiences. With how hard the sports industry is to break into, there is a shared understanding of once you’re in you should find ways to help others break through. We received exciting feedback from staff who were proud to have participated.

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Portada: You activated across a host of cities, can you give us some examples of the best stories that have come about?

ST: One story that comes to mind is of a Senior at Annandale High School named Kudss Bekele who attended the D.C. United shadowing day. Kudss had a particular interest in the culinary arts, which was called out in his teacher’s letter of recommendation to participate in the program. D.C. United introduced him to their Director of Food and Beverage at Audi Field and they had a 1-on-1 session talking about their shared love of food and careers that can apply. Annandale’s chaperone described it as “transformative” for the student, in that he had no idea that he could take his love for food and apply it to a game day experience. That’s what these experiences are meant to do.

In addition, we had the Presidents or General Managers from the Chicago Fire, D.C. United, FC Dallas, and New York City FC come and speak to the students unprompted by us. It was an amazing gesture by these folks and it’s exciting to us that these students had access to these important executives at such a young age.

Portada: Why young Latinos and Latinas? How do they fit into the plan with this for an online university?

ST: In 2017, the Hispanic student population was our fastest growing ethnicity in our online degree programs. While still a modest size group, we believe it’s our job as a University to make sure we have the foundation in place to support these students. That includes better recognition of our offerings to this audience, establishing online student groups that build community, further education for our student-facing staff of the unique opportunities and challenges these folks face, and continuing our commitment towards expanding access with partnerships and groups that are already working with this population.

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: What’s the biggest challenge in executing the program? What was the longer term goal with these students who engaged?

ST: Since we currently only offer online degree programs in English, we have had to help our teams understand that this is a highly bilingual audience who’s used to seeing content in both languages. There are ways to effectively tell our story in English, while still speaking to the themes and values that this audience cares about. Our research indicates that Hispanic families value education as much as anyone, and we will continue to find ways in which we can better serve this population.

Portada: Is this a program that can/will/should be replicated in other sports, and if so how?

ST: It certainly could be. Our sports partnerships include Major League Soccer and some member Clubs (FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, and the Philadelphia Union), the Boston Celtics, and our local teams in Manchester, NH (Fisher Cats and Monarchs). Our conversations have been focused on how we pursue more long-term programming that builds off of Rompe Las Barreras with our existing teams. But certainly, if other sports leagues or non-sports leagues wanted to do this program, we would be excited to have the conversation.

Portada: What is the long-term win for the program from a brand marketing standpoint? Where does it go from here?

ST: A win for us is feedback that we’re helping individuals, in this case Hispanic high schoolers, become more prepared, more confident, and have true equitable access to higher education. That drives everything we do. Secondly is that we’re sharing stories that are consistent in value with this audience.

Long term, we want to get better at preparing Hispanic youth and adults for higher education. This program isn’t the end goal, it’s a starting point on an exciting journey.

A well thought out, well-executed program with long-term deliverables for both parties. Well played by both.

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/877433269029089281/FVfZXf-H_400x400.jpgUefa is planning to launch its own over-the-top (OTT) streaming service. The new platform will also focus on giving additional exposure to categories other than men’s soccer, such as the women’s game and futsal. Uefa’s flagship club competitions the Champions League and Europa League will remain in the hands of major broadcasters which account for much of the governing body’s revenue. “It is not ready yet, but we are building our own OTT platform to really go beyond the current content,” stated Uefa’s marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein.

 

  • In the esports business, UEFA is exploring options to launch an official esports tournament that will take place during EURO 2020. The soccer organization is looking for a firms interested in “creating, developing and operating an official esports tournament,” according to Inside World Football. The relevant advertising, marketing, promotion and operation of the E-Sports Tournament will be subject to UEFA’s approval and guidelines,” said UEFA.

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  • ESPN acquired the Coppa Italia U.S. broadcasting rights. The deal includes the Italian Super Cup, the annual curtain-raising fixture between the reigning Serie A champions and the holders of the Coppa Italia.

 

  • Real Madrid C.F.Real Madrid renewed its regional sponsorship agreement with healthcare provider Sanitas until 2021, for three more seasons. The Bupa subsidiary will continue to provide medical expertise, treatment and specialist healthcare technology.

 

  • The Uefa Europa League has extended its sponsorship deal with delivery company Fedex Express. The company will now become an official sponsor of the competition until the end of the 2020/21 season.

 

  • Major League Soccer locked in long-term broadcast partnerships with four networks in the US and Canada. Univision, ESPN, TSN, and TVA Sports will carry the first annual Campeones Cup, the new competition between the league champions of MLS and Liga MX.

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • LaLigaLa Liga has extended its partnership with Microsoft. The deal will see La Liga’s content made available to Microsoft News users and on other products including Windows, Microsoft Edge, Xbox Live and Bing. This is the first global alliance signed by Microsoft with a major sports league.

 

  • OTT DAZN has purchased the qualifying matches for 2020 Uefa European Championships, as well as the European qualifiers for the 2020 Fifa World Cup broadcast rights in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The deal also includes the same rights to the 2018/19 and 2020/21 editions of the new Nations League, which began on Thursday night. However, DAZN won’t provide live coverage of any matches involving Germany, Austria or Switzerland in their respective home markets.

 

  • Major League Soccer locked in its schedule and format for the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. The 2018 MLS Cup will be broadcast on FOX and UniMas, and across more than 170 countries worldwide via MLS’s network of international broadcasters.

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  • CONMEBOL.comMediapro has signed a four-year deal with the South American Football Federation (Conmebol) as a production hub. The Spanish agency will provide the international signal for the region’s three major club competition’s internationally and will take care of producing and distributing the Copa Libertadores.

 

  • David Beckham’s new MLS expansion team in Miami has unveiled its name, crest, and colors. The club will be called Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami, as a statement to the Latin American roots of Miami. The Spanish name is expected to be informally shortened to Inter Miami.

 

  • Juventus has extended and expanded its licensing deal with international agency IMG to include the US and Canada. As part of the new multi-year deal, the IMG will develop the Serie A club’s licensing business through its network of Asian, American and Canadian offices, coordinated by its team in Milan.

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  • French soccer team Paris Saint-German announced Socios.com as their official branded cryptocurrency partner. The multi-year deal will see the company work with the team to develop their blockchain strategy to enhance and evolve their fan engagement.

 

  • GoogleSpanish La Liga has partnered with Google in an effort to protect the league’s media rights portfolio from illegal streaming websites. The league is working with Google to block search results that include pirate services.

 

  • The German Football Association (DFB has extended its longstanding partnership with Adidas for another four years. The deal will see the German sportswear giant continue to supply kits to the country’s national soccer teams until 2026.

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • Heineken USCOPA90 and Heineken USA started a film collaboration with The Players’ Tribune. The  two-part original film series takes NY Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr on “a day-long journey exploring fan culture and match-day experiences at the Real Madrid vs AS Roma ICC game in New York.” Throughout the season, HEINEKEN USA is sponsoring COPA90’s flagship show, Walk Talk Football, hosted by Pearce. This sponsorship also includes the MLS season preview and episodes across Heineken Rivalry Week.

 

  • Univision exec Boris Gartner has been named CEO of LaLiga North America, a joint venture of the league and the sports marketing group Relevant. Gartner will be in charge of finding new media outlets for coverage of LaLiga games and to promote league’s players.

Also, read Beyond Friendly; La Liga Takes a Bold Next Step for the Business of American Soccer

  • MLS and Twitter unveiled a new Tweet Cam, as part of MLS Heineken Rivalry Week. The Twitter powered camera is part of a social campaign and allowed fans the ability to get a glimpse of the action from the northeast corner of the arena.

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  • The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has given its approval for Serie A teams to have a sleeve sponsor on their jerseys. The move means that in addition to a front-of-shirt and back-of-shirt sponsor, Italian clubs will be permitted to sell a space of 100cm2 on the left sleeve of their shirts, although it has not yet been confirmed when the new inventory will open up to brands.

What: Allstate continues its support of Latino sports and culture with title sponsorship of Alianza de Futbol’s “Sueño Alianza” program.
Why it matters: Allstate has put a strong foot forward in engaging with the loyal Latino community, particularly among youth.

There are not many major brands who have embraced the Latino culture around sport more than Allstate (@Allstate). Through soccer, that engagement will continue to grow.

Case in point was the company’s expansion into the youth soccer market, not only finding a new entry level into high school soccer with the Allstate All America Cup, but also much deeper into the commitment of cultivating Latino youth through a new title sponsorship with Brad Rothenberg’s co-founded and massively successful youth soccer platform, Alianza de Futbol (@alianzadefutbol). Over the past decade, his organization has held more than 300 events across the country for young players and has sent dozens of them to club teams in Mexico.

The brand signed on as the title sponsor of Alianza de Futbol’s “Sueño Alianza” program, which provides an opportunity for young Latino soccer players across the country to be scouted by professional clubs for a shot at soccer stardom. Jonathan Gonzalez, who was found by his current club, Monterrey, at the 2013 Allstate Sueño Alianza National Showcase, will serve as the spokesman for the program.

…[W]hile many brands still look for answers coming out of the successful efforts to market to Latinos following the World Cup, Allstate has doubled down in identifying the next stars.

Allstate was previously Alianza de Futbol’s official insurance sponsor and a sponsor of the Mexican federation in its activities in the United States.

“It’s great to see brands understand the power of grassroots marketing in soccer, and to see Allstate continue to put dollars and promotion behind this platform puts them in the driver’s seat for engaging with a group that is so brand loyal, the Latino consumer,” said Chris Lencheski, longtime sports marketer and professor at Columbia University. “Grassroots marketing is not always easy, but it is the best way to make sure you are reaching families where they live and work, and by doing these programs Allstate is building consumers for life.”

The Alianza de Futbol announcement was part of Allstate high school launch program, to recognize the nation’s top high school juniors and bring them together for an Allstate All-America Cup to be held at the 2019 MLS All-Star Game and televised on ESPNU. In all, 125 male and 125 female players will be named Allstate All-Americans, and of them 40 males and 40 females will be selected to play in the Allstate All-America Cup. The players will be honored at halftime of the 2019 MLS All-Star Game.

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“For more than a decade, Allstate has taken great pride in its commitment to the soccer community, always with the goal of providing superior protection to the fans and the sport they love.” said Pam Hollander, Allstate’s Vice President of Consumer Marketing in a statement. “The Allstate All-America program was designed to shine a spotlight on the student-athletes who represent the best of more than 800,000 high school soccer players in America. It extends Allstate’s commitment to soccer in the U.S. that started when we became the official insurance partner of Major League Soccer in 2011.”

So while many brands still look for answers coming out of the successful efforts to market to Latinos following the World Cup, Allstate has doubled down in identifying the next stars, and with that identification comes families and great stories. That type of engagement is, as another soccer sponsor likes to say, “Priceless.”

Cover image: credit Alianza de Futbol

What: La Liga has entered into a 15-year deal with U.S.-based promoter Relevent Sports to form La Liga North America, to bring the circuit’s matches to the States.
Why it matters: European leagues have held “friendlies” in the U.S. for years, but La Liga North America represents the next step: bringing regular league matches here, with huge fandom and marketing possibilities.

For over a decade, the elite football clubs of the world have made the trek across the pond or up from South America for summer friendlies—training matches for the most part as they prepped for their regular seasons. All have seen the growing market in and around American football, and look for ways to exploit brand and build fan bases not just for those one off matches, but for a growingly savvy American football fan that starts from the grassroots and now, due to the infusion of regular broadcasts on networks like NBC and FOX and ESPN and to some extended beIN (@beINSPORTS) and others, are regularly engaged on a weekly basis, year round watching their favorite clubs.

You cannot walk more than a few blocks in Manhattan these days without seeing a random kit from everyone from Roma (@OfficialASRomaand Real Madrid (@realmadridto Flamengo (@Flamengo). The growth of appreciation for the elite soccer clubs of the world has been quite amazing to watch.

To grow the brand awareness effectively you need to have those global fans not just see an exhibition, the need to experience the real thing.

Those clubs have also seen not just the development of the game with knowledgeable fans, but the potential for marketing dollars as well. By some counts, there are as many as 10 global clubs with a commercial office looking to do deals now set up in the United States. Arguably the most successful thus far has been FC Bayern Munich (@FCBayernUS), whose smart digital-first approach led by Rudolf Vidal has established supporter groups in all 50 states, something which mist NFL teams can’t even say they have. They have also done a great job of taking advantage of partner sponsorships like Audi (@Audiand Adidas (@adidasUSto grow brand marketing opportunities in the States, especially in and around summer tours like the one they just completed. They have done all of that without having a mature American marketable star just yet, but they have made their brand, and their elite players, very recognizable in the States.

Other clubs like City Football Club (Tom Glick, Chief Commercial & Operating Officer – Manchester City will be one of the star speakers at Portada New York on Sept. 25),
Chelsea (@ChelseaFC(with their brand building events last fall), Roma (with their American ownership group and recent Serie A success), and Liverpool continue to also scale up in the marketplace, even when the clubs are a continent away.

The recently completed International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup), the most ambitious ever in markets big and medium-sized, again showed that the power of the names of elite soccer clubs to draw in the U.S. and Canada was not waning. However to make the jump from just casual events, which often lacked star power and as the matches went on, became more and more like glorified practices as clubs sought to diminish the risk of injury and fatigue to key players just preparing for a season to come, the increasingly interested American fan, as well as loyal expats living and working in the States, there needs to be a next step.

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It is a step which American leagues like the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and MLB, realized several years ago. To grow the brand awareness effectively you need to have those global fans not just see an exhibition, the need to experience the real thing; regular season events with all on the line, not just marketing trips where the effort, and the stars may be waning. The regular season matchups don’t just add value to fans, they show true commitment that the league or the brand of a team, is invested in giving fans the best.

Recently we have seen some efforts in sports like rugby (the Aviva Premiership brought a match between London Irish and Saracens to the States), and even football (when the French Cup was played at Red Bull Arena five years ago), but no real consistent proposal has been out forth to bring the real thing to America and its growing marketplace. Whispers of Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) finals to be played in America? Yes. Dreams of the Premier League expanding and adding two clubs in the U.S.? Dreams indeed, which have been quickly dismissed time and again. The friendlies, it seems were enough.

Until this week, when La Liga took a next bold step.

On Wednesday, Spain’s top-flight soccer competition, and Relevent, announced a first-of-a-kind 15-year, equal joint venture which will include plans to bring a regular season club match to the United States, the first to be played outside of Europe.

Called La Liga North America, the newly founded organization will work to cultivate soccer culture in the U.S. and Canada. LaLiga North America will support the league’s growth in the U.S. and Canada through consumer-related activities including youth academies, development of youth soccer coaches, marketing agreements, consumer activations, exhibition matches and plans to have an official La Liga Santander match played in the U.S. While there is no timetable yet, and one would not expect El Clasico to suddenly end up in Philadelphia or even Miami (where the offseason matchup between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona was staged last summer) you will get to see some of the elite clubs of La Liga who are willing to give up a home match and grow their brands in America in the fall or winter or spring, not summer before too long.

“This extraordinary joint venture is the next giant leap in growing soccer’s popularity in North America,” said Stephen Ross, chairman and co-founder of RSE Ventures, parent company of Relevent in a release. “This unique relationship will create new opportunities for millions of North American soccer fans to experience the most passionate, exciting, and highest level of soccer in the world.”

La Liga President Javier Tebas added: “We’re devoted to growing the passion for soccer around the world. This ground-breaking agreement is certain to give a major impulse to the popularity of the beautiful game in the U.S. and Canada. Relevent has filled stadiums across the U.S. with the International Champions Cup, we’re thrilled to partner with them on a joint mission to grow soccer in North America.”

The move by La Liga makes good business sense for a number of reasons. They are looking to a market that is growing where Spanish is already the dominant second language, where they already have brands involved in sports well engaged, and where the Anglo soccer fan has enjoyed the growth of elite football. They also can use this to potentially exploit a new bigger broadcast agreement as well as continue to grow their streaming opportunities in a market that is very digital savvy, and has young engaged fans who think mobile first. It also will give La Liga “first in” with some brands who may be looking to grow their soccer footprint abroad, but were not sure exactly how. Bringing exhibitions to the U.S. was a nice first step, bringing regular-season matches gives brands a real platform to embrace consistently every year, which is very appealing. There is also the aspect of women’s soccer, which has been growing on the La Liga radar. With women becoming more and more engaged in the game, and La Liga expanding its professional women’s league, the opportunity to exploit the female playing, as well as consuming, demo can also be part of the plan.

Now what does this mean for North America’s standing soccer leagues, Liga MX (@LIGABancomerMX), which draws more viewers than anyone, and Major League Soccer (@MLS)? It certainly is not a surprise, and should help to again bolster the interests and the buzz around soccer as a brand in the United States. The match will also probably be in the MLS offseason, which also helps to keep “brand soccer” vibrant in America, and that can lead to more fan exposure and can uncover new brands looking to engage in the sport.

Where and what all this will mean will unfold in the current months, and will probably lead to a new level of year-round experiential soccer in the U.S. and Canada for leagues looking to grow brand and disrupt the current model. The who—namely which clubs—and the when—will be key for a next step for La Liga. There are already stories of players balking at the announcement which will probably be part of a negotiation to move this forward. Regardless being first is always better than not.

If you are involved in the soccer business, this move is a good one, if you are looking to get in, a new opportunity has arisen.

Cover Image: Wikimedia Commons/Andres Bustos

What: MLS has been a huge success in the Pacific Northwest, spurring the grassroots Cuervos FC there.
Why it matters: The emergence of teams like Cuervos offers young Latino players more options and can be a boon to the savvy marketer moving forward.

The amazing success of Major League Soccer (@MLS ‏) in cities like Portland (@TimbersFCand Seattle (@SoundersFChas set a very high bar for other clubs around the United States. From youth programs to elite clubs, all experts point to the Pacific Northwest as the fertile ground for growing the game on the professional level. Those seeds have been moved forward with new success in places like Atlanta, Orlando and now Los Angeles with both the LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxyand LAFC (@LAFC), but many will look towards the Sounders and Timbers for where it got going.

Now it seems that same area is helping grow and educate young Latino fans, and players, not just in the game, but in healthy lifestyle.

Cuervos FC (@CuervosCCMhas found a strong niche at the grassroots in the Pacific Northwest, where their coaches and administrators teach not only soccer, but healthy lifestyles to scores of kids, many immigrants or new to the area. Their goal: education and immersion, not just on the field but off.

If you find a way to engage and support with this demo, the fastest rising in the U.S. and one that is very soccer savvy, you can develop support for life.

According to a recent story in the Portland Tribune, Cuervos is a new organization with a new outlook in urban soccer, even in this hotbed for the sport. Club president Jose Alberto Vasquez recruited Fragoso, a former professional player in Mexico, to rally Latino athletes from unranked clubs, casually organized games between Latino kids in what’s known as the “Barrio Leagues” or “Mexican Leagues” to compete against the highest-ranked teams in Oregon. Other clubs have Latinos on their rosters, but Cuervos is now the club to be part of.

The Barrio League matches, complete with food trucks and mariachi soundtracks, provide a cultural experience and some very good soccer. “I grew up playing in the Mexican leagues,” said Marco Farfan, left back defender for the Portland Timbers told the Tribune. “Taco trucks, music, I loved it.” Farfan, who was selected for Major League Soccer’s Homegrown Game in Atlanta this week, says the emergence of teams like Cuervos offers young Latino players more options. “I think it’s great,” Farfan says. “Even though I came from Eastside Timbers, I root for teams like Cuervo,” he added.

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One of the big draws for Cuervos is not just coaching and culture but strict attention to detail and education in areas like concussion protocol. Since Cuervos is part of the Oregon Youth Soccer Association, the opportunity to help further the livelihood of youth players is much greater than other unregulated leagues.

But what could this mean from a brand perspective? Lots. “There is no doubt that regional club programs and the communities they serve have great value to brands looking to engage not with young players, but with their families as well,” said longtime sports marketing executive Chris Lencheski. “This is probably even truer in the Latino community, where authenticity and word of mouth is very strong. If you find a way to engage and support with this demo, the fastest rising in the U.S. and one that is very soccer savvy, you can develop support for life. Take into consideration the deep soccer culture in the Pacific Northwest, and a club like this, that can continue to grow, could be one to watch if I was looking for an engagement point.”

Now the club and youth sports world is still a tricky one to navigate, and it has to be done correctly. However correctly is what it seems Cuervo is doing, and opening those communal doors for sports business may pay some great dividends for the savvy sponsor down the line.

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • AudiMajor League Soccer and Audi of America extended their multi-year partnership. With the highest percentage of the millennial audience of any major U.S. sport, the partnership enables Audi to combine its commitment to innovation and technology to engage fans, raise the profile of the game and reach the next generation of young buyers. As part of the agreement, Audi will remain the League’s Official Automotive Partner and the title sponsor of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

 

  • Visa has announced its final results for the FIFA World Cup. The Official Payment Services Partner of FIFA reports that contactless payments accounted for 45% of all Visa purchases in the 11 host cities. Fans from Poland made the most of the contactless purchasing options in-stadium, making 74% of Visa transactions using contactless technology.

 

  • Univision Deportes announced that Univision Deportes Radio is now available nationwide on SiriusXM on channel 467. The lineup will offer “the best in live matches, original content and insightful commentary from a team of renowned sports journalists and analysts and bring more than 350 soccer matches annually to SiriusXM from UEFA Champions League, Europa League and National Team competitions, Liga MX, MLS, CONCACAF, the US Men’s National Team and others.”

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  • Global sports agency MP & Silva has failed to meet payments to multiple rights holders, according to a report from Sports Business. The firm, which is owned by Chinese companies Everbright and Baofeng Group, has apparently defaulted on scheduled payments to England’s Premier League and the European Handball Federation, among others. The agency is also in arbitration with Fifa, over its advisory contract for rights to the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cups in Italy.

 

  • Chicago FireMLS team Chicago Fire have announced a multi-year partnership with telecommunications giant AT&T. The deal will see AT&T’s branding integrated through broadcast, digital, video, content and in-stadium exposure, as well as on-site activation at Fire-related events. The company will also present exclusive content and experiences to Fire fans, including a behind-the-scenes series and activations tied to competitive gaming.

 

  • Manchester City has announced their first esports-specific partnership, securing a deal with the gaming headset and audio accessory brand Turtle Beach. The contract sees Manchester City esports players using Turtle Beach’s line of professional gaming audio equipment, as well as other Turtle Beach gear and accessories.

Tom Glick, Chief Commercial Officer at City Football Club, will be a speaker in our upcoming Portada NY conference. Sign up here.

  • UEFA Champions LeagueTurner Sports detailed plans for its upcoming coverage of the UEFA Champions League. On TV, Turner will televise 47 UEFA matches on TNT throughout the season. Meanwhile, B/R Live, Turner’s new premium live sports streaming service will offer fans live UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League action, with content branded B/R Football across all platforms.

 

  • Allstate Insurance Company will launch its first-ever Allstate All-America Soccer platform to honor the country’s rising high school soccer stars. In collaboration with MaxPreps, Allstate will identify the nation’s top high school soccer players in their junior year and award the “Allstate All-American” title to an elite group of 125 male and 125 female players. From the total 250 high school players, 40 males and 40 females will then be selected for the unique opportunity to compete in the inaugural Allstate All-America Cup that that will take place in summer 2019 in the city that hosts the Major League Soccer All-Star Game presented by Target.

What: LaLiga World Challenge continues its fourth year with RCD Espanyol De Barcelona’s friendly with the MLS Richmond Kickers, associated community activities in Richmond and a subsequent game against FC Cincinnati.
Why it matters: Consistent programs like LaLiga World Challenge can help boost the presence of international clubs in the U.S. and Latin America, in particular with the Hispanic fan base.

With more opportunities for U.S. and Latin American fans to tune in to matches and connect with their favorite clubs and leagues, European soccer is more popular on this side of the Atlantic than ever before. Looking to enhance that, and grab as much of that fandom as well as build new followings, those organizations have implemented various initiatives. Programs like Chelsea FC’s Premier League victory tour through New York last November and ongoing partnership with FC Harlem (@FCHARLEM), the International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCupand various other friendlies are among the most visible.

Consistency in these programs—returning year over year or maintaining a presence in the market like Chelsea (@ChelseaFChas—is vital. One excellent example is the LaLiga World Challenge, now in its fourth year of raising awareness of the top Spanish league across the globe, with Richmond, Va., its most recent stop in July. Supported by the Spanish government, The World Challenge includes friendlies in every city, but, according to organizers, connecting with fans, particularly youth, is the biggest goal.

“Teams like RCD Espanyol De Barcelona participate in a variety of local activities to meet the fans where they’re at; in their stadiums, with their local leagues and alongside their local athletes,” said Nico García, LaLiga’s (@LaLigaEN) Institutional Spokesperson for International Development. “The most important aspect for the teams is really getting close to the fan and therefore having an impact on the community where they’re present. They truly give the community something special- the availability of every single Espanyol player giving their time to Richmond’s kids is a perfect example.”

We want to grow our fanbase in the U.S. and part of that is being accessible to those who support us.

More than 7,000 fans came out to Richmond for RCD Espanyol’s (@RCDEspanyolfriendly with the MLS Richmond Kickers (@RichmondKickerson July 25, a 4-2 victory for the Spaniards but an even bigger win for the kids who participated in pre-event clinics and for those in the region that, save a trip up I-95 to D.C. for the International Champions Cup or a Team USA friendly, may not have had an opportunity to see a top international squad in action.

“It allowed RCD Espanyol de Barcelona to make a lasting impact on Richmond’s youngest fans,” added Garcia, “when the entirety of the RCD Espanyol team coached a clinic alongside several bilingual Richmond Kickers players in their home stadium.”

And while Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga can make an impact in these visits, LaLiga has the commonality of the Spanish language that can make connections with Hispanic fans even greater.

“A huge amount of U.S. cities have Hispanic populations, and LaLiga has amazing fans from those populations-Spanish being a natural connection,” noted Garcia. “However, fans of all types come out for LaLiga World activations in both the U.S. and Latin America. As the league has grown in popularity, because of its entertaining style of play and atmosphere, more and more fans are well-versed in our clubs and players and can’t wait to meet them in person.”

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Nico Garcia (L) and Toni Alegre (R) with Fox19 Richmond’s Alison Montoya (via Twitter)

For Espanyol Director of Marketing Antoni Alegre, the team’s participation is a natural fit, even as the 2018-19 league season looms.

“Pre-season is important, but using our summer time to visit other parts of the world is also important,” said Alegre. “We are nothing without our fans, and our international fans also deserve our full attention. We want to grow our fanbase in the U.S. and part of that is being accessible to those who support us.”

Alegre adds that it’s one the players look forward to as well.

“Some of our players had never been to the U.S. before—to go to a country where they’ve never been and hear a fan yelling out their name after a match is something special,” he explained. “Our club is grateful that LaLiga World challenge gives us what we need to expand our brand internationally, letting us maintain and grow fans.

As with any program like this, it’s what is left behind and the next steps for both LaLiga and Espanyol that are critical. For Garcia, the unique experience, for both fans and players, is key.

“LaLiga clubs have left behind once-in-a-lifetime experiences for the fans they’ve touched,” he said. “We feel confident that every child who’s gotten a chance to play, chat, get an autograph and get to know LaLiga players will go on to be lifetime fans of the club. Every single one of these new fans, more than 7,000 in the stadium in Richmond and more than 16,000 in Cincinnati, is essential. Clubs like RCD Espanyol de Barcelona also look for synergies with local clubs to help develop knowledge-sharing agreements; sharing knowledge about things like youth development and academies in Spain. The clubs often hope to develop further long-term sports projects with the local clubs with whom they collaborate.

cover image: via Richmond Kickers (Facebook)

What: We talked to Jed Mettee, Executive VP of the San Jose Earthquakes, about how the MLS team took advantage of the World Cup, by broadcasting every game for free at the Avaya Stadium.
Why it matters: Even though the US national soccer team didn’t make it to the World Cup this year, the San Jose Quakes managed to make use of the competition to connect with local fans, old and new ones. More than 40,000 fans went to Avaya Stadium, including the 7,000 that went to the final.

Jed Mettee, Executive VP of the San Jose Earthquakes.

It’s been a few weeks since we saw how France became, for the second time ever, the soccer world champion. Now, while we still adjust to the void created when the most exciting soccer event reached its end, we are still discovering how the World Cup brought together fans around the world, no matter what team they were cheering for.

Every brand and organization looked for a way to take advantage of this opportunity. The San Jose Quakes were not the exception. Even though the US didn’t make it to the World Cup, every soccer follower (anyone really) wanted to be updated on the game. The Quakes decided to open their doors, and invited fans to follow every game of the World Cup for free at the Avaya Stadium.

We talked to Jed Mettee, Executive VP of the San Jose Earthquakes, about how the team connected with its fans, and what results they got during the past month of World-Cup matches.

Fan engagement

Portada: Why was it so important to the team to connect with fans during the World Cup?

Jed Mettee: “We are the local professional soccer team and we want to bring soccer to the community.  The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world, and San Jose was no exception in wanting to celebrate it. By showing every single World Cup match on our video board at Avaya for free, we created a community meeting place for San Jose and the greater Bay Area. People from all different backgrounds could come and enjoy the spectacle.”

By showing every single World Cup match on our video board at Avaya for free, we created a community meeting place.

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Portada: What was the main goal?

J.M.: “We wanted to make Avaya Stadium the gathering place for the World Cup in the San Jose and the greater Bay Area. These matches allowed us to engage with a wide audience from San Jose and across the region. Through this, we brought new soccer fans into our stadium. These fans are now more likely to come back and attend a Quakes match.”

Portada: What did the team offer during the World Cup, other than to broadcast the games?

J.M.: “We had activities for fans at the matches to heighten the fan experience. As we are on the West Coast, the earliest game started at 3 a.m. PT, so for the first game each day we had free coffee and donuts. We also had inflatables, cornhole and a Quakes prize wheel at all the matches.

Our stadium bar, the longest outdoor bar in North America, opened at 6 a.m., and food trucks were also onsite throughout the tournament. Our concessions provider, Spectra, also offered food for games, and for specific games had special dishes from the countries that were competing.

At games with a larger attendance, we had FIFA video game stations and face painters, and our passport program rewarded fans that returned to watch multiple games.”

Portada: Tell us more about the passport program?

J.M.: “Fans that watched the matches at Avaya Stadium received a passport and could collect a stamp for each day that they came. With five stamps they received a Quakes scarf, 10 stamps they got tickets to our match against Seattle Sounders FC next Wednesday, July 25, and those that have all the stamps will attend a meet and greet with our players after the match against Seattle.

The response from fans was great. In total, they received 500 scarves. We also gave out 200 tickets to the Seattle match, and 25 fans are going to attend the meet and greet.”

san jose quakes
Photo: ISI Photos

Portada: Which game got the largest number of attendees?

J.M.: “The viewing parties were incredibly successful. Fans thoroughly enjoyed them, and more than 40,000 fans came to our stadium to watch the matches throughout the tournament, including 7,000 that came to the final.”

The match with the largest number of attendees was the Mexico vs. Sweden match on July 2, as 7,500 fans came to watch.

“We even had over 200 people for the 3 a.m. France vs. Australia game. The match with the largest number of attendees was the Mexico vs. Sweden match on July 2, as 7,500 fans came to watch.”

Portada: Did you include your sponsors in the activities?

J.M.: “Per FIFA regulations, we did not have sponsorship activations at our stadium for the World Cup viewing parties. That being said, we had San Jose Quakes branding and prizes for the attendees.”

Portada: In general, was this a successful strategy?

J.M.: “Showing every single World Cup match at our stadium was hugely successful. Fans enjoyed it and came back to watch other games.”

We were able to introduce our stadium to new fans.

“We also had thousands of fans attend games who had not been to the stadium for a San Jose Quakes game. So we were able to introduce our stadium to new fans. In many ways, we surpassed our expectations for the viewing parties.”

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Portada: Are you going to repeat this type of screenings?  For which tournaments?

J.M.: “We are currently making plans for the upcoming tournaments, but we have not finalized anything yet.”

Portada: What is up next for the Quakes marketing team?

J.M.: “We are focusing on San Jose, and our slogan is ‘We Are San Jose’. We will continue to display our passion for the city that has served as our home since 1974.”

“Our San Jose Neighborhood Nights program in partnership with Wells Fargo will also keep happening. This program celebrates the diverse neighborhoods around San Jose each game at the stadium and connects us more with the community.”

Featured photo: ISI Photos

What: With World Cup over, it can be deemed an overall global success not just in soccer, but in sports business.
Why it matters: Brands were able to use social media to deliver messages more than ever, via nontraditional outlets like Twitch, a trend that will only increase.

The FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCupis now in the rear view mirror, as soccer friendlies and several months of MLS (@MLSnow take center stage in North America, as global fans of “The Beautiful Game” await training and then the opening of the elite European leagues in the late summer.

The lessons learned from World Cup activation and engagement continue to grow. The effective implementation of social campaigns tied to the games were in record numbers, Spanish language broadcasts in the U.S. drew solid audiences despite the fact that the U.S. did not qualify for the event, and many of the elite Spanish language countries exited a little earlier than expected. Still the drama and life displayed by first timers like Peru and the continued growth and engagement of Mexico led to an even bigger bounce than what was expected making World Cup in Russia an overall global success not just in soccer, but in sports business.

…[B]rands that invested in social were able to find a new engagement platform, especially for digital first millennial consumers, that had not existed before.
credit: Soccer.ru

In the U.S., the change of leadership at the top of USA Soccer (@USASoccer), and the announcement that the 2026 Cup will be coming to North America has also given rise to even more hope that soccer as a property will still see its biggest days ahead.

With that forward looking idea comes one more look back at World Cup engagement, this time through an engagement platform becoming more and more prevalent as sports looks to be customized and digital first. Twitch (@Twitch ‏), the Amazon owned streaming service, has become a monster and go to platform for esports for several years, and now leagues like the NBA have looked to create more formal relationships as a custom screen experience for fans. The NBA G league (@nbagleagueexperimented with great success on Twitch last season, and more and more relationships will be coming, especially as Amazon itself continues its ramp up with broadcast rights for major sports leagues around the world.

Portada worked with Stream Hatchet (@StreamHatchet), one of the world’s elite digital measurement services, to look at Twitch and the World Cup, and how and if the official brands tied to World Cup actually gained share of voice across the channels created by fans on Twitch before and then during the World Cup. Given the fact that Twitch had no official relationship with FIFA, the share of voice for brands might be expected to be small. However what played out was actually interesting, as it shows that brands that invested in social were able to find a new engagement platform, especially for digital first millennial consumers, that had not existed before.

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courtesy Wanda

Who were the brands that won out over the thousands of Twitch channels and conversations created specifically around World Cup? There were five that entered conversations best: Wanda, Hyundai, Adidas, Visa and Coke, with the engagement and chatter about the brands on Twitch starting before the Games actually began, and then peaking as the semi-finals and finals came into view.

Given the savviness of Asian consumers around esports and the use of Twitch as a medium of choice, the success of engagement for brands like Wanda and Hyundai makes great sense. However to see global brands like Visa and Coke, and an apparel brand like Adidas be in conversations throughout the course of the Games opens a very unique window for future engagement. Keep in mind that little to no sponsorship dollars were spent in conjunction with Twitch, so all the engagement mentions and conversations, sometimes as large as 50,000, all game about in a generic and authentic form for the young consumers watching and talking about the World Cup on the platform.

It provides a great litmus test into the power of both a custom streaming channel, and a second screen experience not just for the World Cup, but for any sports event looking to engage and activate going forward. Now with such a massive spend by brands on traditional channels, will dollars suddenly flow to Twitch, or even other second screen streaming experiences like Facebook Live, that easily in the short term? No. However this snapshot (below) by Stream Hatchet and Portada shows that there is growing value that has been anecdotal, and now is quantifiable, as brands looks to engage new consumers on a platform they are comfortable on and more and more used to using.

While focus remains on big screen for now, the handheld, custom experience continues to make inroads, the proof, even in World Cup, is now there to see.

Cover image: Mahdi Zare/Fars News Agency

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • VisaTelemundo Deportes is adding to its sports content portfolio the exclusive Spanish-language U.S. media rights to the 2019 Copa America to be held in Brazil. Organized by South America’s soccer ruling body CONMEBOL, Copa America is the oldest international continental soccer competition and it determines the continental champion of South America.
    “We are extremely pleased to join forces with CONMEBOL and the Copa America tournament,” said Ray Warren, President, Telemundo Deportes. “It is a world-class event and perfectly aligns with our approach to partner with owners of the biggest and best global sporting events to bring them to our Spanish-language audience in the U.S.”

 

  • Visa, the Official Payment Services Partner of FIFA, released an analysis of foreign travelers’ spending during opening days of 2018 FIFA World Cup, discovering that in the stadiums, the share of contactless payments grew to 54%, inclusive of purchases made by fans from Russia and abroad.

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  • AeroméxicoOn Saturday, June 30, Aeromexico sponsored the short #FutSinGénero ( with no gender) tournament to promote equal rights among women and men in soccer. Soccer celebrities like Charlyn Corral, Lucero Cuevas, and Kenti Robles joined the event. The project has managed to create the Female Professional Soccer League in Mexico, and also to develop a strategic growth plan for professional female players.

 

  • It seems that Nike is close to becoming the winner of the World Cup jersey sponsorship battle. The Nike swoosh appears on the outfits of Brazil, France, and England, favorite teams to win the World Cup, plus Croatia, according to betting websites. Archrival Adidas still has Belgium, Russia, and Sweden in the quarter-finals, and Puma is adding Uruguay to the game.

 

  • As the MLS expansion process continues, Detroit remains in the mix. The bidders are hoping to bring Major League Soccer to the Ford Field. “I think MLS has now accepted the fact that Ford Field is the right place,” said Arn Tellem, vice chairman of the Pistons, who has been charged by owner Tom Gores with coordinating the bid in Detroit.

 

  • Wayne Rooney has confirmed he’ll be joining the MLS, through a 3 1/2 year designated-player contract with D.C. United. The British soccer player follows the lead of Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic and retired countryman David Beckham by leaving Europe for MLS later in their careers. Rooney is expected to make his debut July 14 when the team opens its new stadium in Southeast Washington against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • HerbalifeESPN networks and ESPN+ will get together to present all 2018 Canadian Football League regular season and postseason games. ESPN2 and ESPNEWS will broadcast more than 20 games, this includes the Eastern and Western Finals and 106th Grey Cup. Also, ESPN+ will stream close to 70 games.
  • Telemundo Station Group will have a team of 12 local station journalists from Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, McAllen and its news bureaus in Washington, D.C., and Miami sent to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. This marks the largest group of Telemundo station journalists to ever report from an international, live sporting event.
  • Herbalife Nutrition extended its multi-year sponsorship with soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo until 2021. Herbalife Nutrition continues as the exclusive rights holder to promote Ronaldo in connection with the nutrition, wellness, and sports performance products category.
  • DraftKings and Jägermeister announced “The Real Shot,” a bracket-style soccer competition by which US soccer fans will be able to adopt a team and carry with them throughout the World Cup. “Sports is one of the fastest growing forms of content, accelerated by fan engagement and participation, and we are committed to bringing top-tier content to our extremely engaged customer base,” stated Ezra Kucharz, Chief Business Officer of DraftKings

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  • Telemundo Deportes presented its World Cup broadcast theme song and music production. “Sueño de Campeones” or “Champions Dream,” was produced by Yoav Goren. The song will be used across Telemundo Deportes’ live broadcasts, pre- and post-games and additional World Cup programming.
  • HFX Wanderers FCMLS announced that FC Cincinnati will become the league’s newest expansion team. The squad will continue to use the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium as its home until its own venue is completed. “The rise of Cincinnati as a passionate soccer market in recent years, coinciding with the city’s growing economy and reputation as a top destination for young professionals makes it an ideal city for our growing league,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
  • The Canadian Premier League confirmed that HFX Wanderers will be one of the founding clubs to play in the professional men’s soccer league set to debut in Spring 2019. Based in based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the team will be the primary tenant at a new soccer stadium at Wanderers Ground, downtown.
  • SportsEngine will partner with Telemundo Deportes to promote participation in youth soccer programs across the US. SportsEngine’s youth sports directory will dedicate its homepage to soccer programs, during this summer World Cup on Telemundo. In addition, SportsEngine is launching its first bilingual advertising campaign, in partnership with Telemundo, to promote soccer to youth across the United States.
  • Telemundo Deportes is partnering with David Villa and his production company, Designated Player, to produce a wide range of soccer content around the World Cup to air across all Telemundo network and digital platforms. As part of the partnership, Villa will narrate a video series entitled Como Llegaron.

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/975880330044325888/RuJuopul_400x400.jpgAdidas extended its partnership with UEFA and will continue representing the Champions League, Super Cup, Youth League and Futsal Champions League until 2021. “As the number one football brand in the world, we have built up a longstanding partnership with UEFA that has seen a great deal achieved in European football,” said Claus-Peter Mayer, VP of sports marketing football at Adidas.
  • Telemundo Deportes will live stream the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia games in Spanish-language on the NBC Sports app, and feature Telemundo Deportes content on desktop computers via a link on NBCSports.com. “Now anyone can enjoy soccer in Spanish-language no matter what app they use, whether they choose to watch through NBC Sports or Telemundo’s own En Vivo App or our local stations’ apps,” said Ray Warren, President of Telemundo Deportes.
  • The Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football has confirmed the 15 venues, including 13 US cities, that will host the 2019 edition of the expanded Concacaf Gold Cup. 2019 Gold Cup matches will also be played in Central America and the Caribbean for the first time.

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  • AFAThe Argentine Football Association (AFA) has agreed on three new partnerships with Chinese firms. Hexindai will become a regional sponsor of Argentina’s national men’s soccer team and will enjoy brand exposure via the AFA website and the federation’s social media channels. Interior design company Der and home appliances manufacturer Vanward will also become AFA’s partners.
  • According to Nielsen, NBC Sports reports a record of 39.3 million Americans watching its presentation of the Premier League on its platforms in 2017-18. This represents a rise of 14%, in comparison with last season’s numbers.
  • The Canadian Premier League announced that Cavalry FC would be one of the founding clubs to play in the upcoming professional men’s soccer league, which will debut in Spring 2019.
  • ESPN signed a multimedia rights agreement with UEFA to continue carrying the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the UEFA Europa League in Spanish-speaking Latin America, effective 2018/19 to 2020/21. ESPN will carry a total of 71 UEFA Champions League matches each season.

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  • The Brasileiro, Brazil’s top league, will become the first domestic soccer league to stream games live on YouTube. The agreement was brokered by third-party Spanish producer Mediapro
  • LAFCSan Manuel Casino announced a new partnership with Los Angeles Football Club, for the 2018 MLS season. San Manuel Casino will take part in pre-match Fan Fest activation experiences at Banc of California Stadium, and sponsor the City View Club in addition to presenting post-game highlights via in-stadium “Thrill of the Match” broadcasts.
  • French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain is creating an overseas office in New York. This is the club’s third office outside of France, following the one in Doha and Singapore. The team hopes to increase brand visibility, cultivate new partnerships and nurture its growing fan base. Jerome de Chaunac, as Managing Director of the Americas, will manage the office.
  • Nashville MLS announced Ian Ayre as its new Chief Executive Officer. The 55-year-old will be tasked with building and leading the Nashville MLS club. “We are committed to bringing world-class soccer to Nashville, as evidence by the appointment of Ian as our CEO,” said Nashville MLS lead owner John Ingram, in a statement.

What: Panini’s Jason Howarth, Las Vegas Lights’ Steve Pastorino and the L.A. Galaxy’s Brendan Hannan weigh in on the importance of the Latino market at World Cup this summer.
Why it matters: Resetting from a U.S.-Canada focus to Latino fandom is critical for brands with World Cup ties.

There were about 48 hours of angst for Panini’s Jason Howarth (@sportsmktgguywhen the U.S. Men’s National team was eliminated for World Cup contention by Trinidad and Tobago.

“Then, we realized we needed to seize all the other opportunities we knew would exist in the U.S.,” he said. “After all when you go around the country and you see all the Messi and Ronaldo jerseys you quickly realize the U.S. team is probably not the focus of most fans anyway.”

That reset, and that opportunity, was echoed not just by Howarth, but also by executives from both the L.A. Galaxy (@LAGalaxyand the Las Vegas Lights (@lvlightsfclast Thursday on a panel about “The Beautiful Game” at Portada LA. at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. The message from all was clear: FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) presents a great business opportunity, especially for brands and teams that have the foresight to embrace all parts of Latino business and culture as the 2018 event quickly approaches.

When the World Cup shock wore off, the opportunity for teams and leagues and brands to creatively find new ways to engage in soccer in a still-growing marketplace is huge.

For the Galaxy, VP of Marketing, Communications and Digital Brendan Hannan (@brendanhannan ‏) was quick to point out that the multicultural approach the club has long taken with their fan experience will be buffeted by World Cup, even with the lack of a U.S. or Canadian National team in the field. The reason? Mexico. With two Mexican players on the roster (Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos) who are candidates for the national team, a wide and years-long  community outreach into the Mexican community, and a footprint that extends south to the Mexican border, LA’s longstanding Major League Soccer franchise has more than just a passing chance of business success when play begins in Russia.

“All our communication with the community is bilingual,” said Hannan. “Our community events and staff have a great understanding of what works and resonates in not just the Mexican but the Latino community as well, and above all, we fully embrace and enjoy the fact that the gateway to the Latino fan starts with the grassroots and will be wide open during World Cup. We are excited about the opportunities.”

Like the Galaxy, the Lights, the newest, and perhaps most disruptive, entry into Tier 2 USL ( ), understands the hyperlocal value of the Latino community to soccer as their key to business success and brand engagement.

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“The face of our franchise (Jose Luis Sánchez Solá – “Chelís”) is a legend in Mexico, we have nine players on our roster who are Mexican, and 20 of our 24 players are bilingual, so we fully understand the value that the Latino audience can bring to our business,” said Steve Pastorino (@StevePastorino), VP of Corporate Sponsorship for the Lights. “On Father’s Day at 8am, following a game the night before, where will we be as a team? Watching what will be the biggest first round matchup in World Cup, Mexico and Germany, with our fans and partners.”

Even with the Mexican focus, Pastorino, a longtime sports marketer who helped launch the MLS Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFireas well, pointed to the massive importance of all the soccer-playing Latino nations as a benchmark for brand success for the Lights. “No matter if it’s Argentina, or Peru or Brazil, we will embrace and leverage off the success in World Cup for all our Latino supporters, as soccer is really a great unifier of cultures, and there is no bigger event to unify around than the World Cup.”

That unification has been a massive boost again for Panini, whose sticker books for World Cup have become a global phenomenon. The numbers of books and stickers the company has been producing for World Cup are staggering; 2 million packets a day with over 70 million stickers being distributed in a week in over 100 countries including the U.S. The key concentration, both in the States and elsewhere, is in the Latino market.

Jason Howarth

“No country understands and appreciates the value of our sticker books better than Brazil,” Howarth added. “And the gateway for our business in the United States wasn’t really going to be through the U.S. national team (although the company did sign rising star Christian Pulisic  to a long-term deal); it was going to be through those Central and South American countries that have strong fan bases here in the U.S. The stories of Peru, Mexico, Argentina and the like will grow as the games progress, and with those stories will come even more affinity not just from the millions of followers those nations already have but from casual fans who will start watching World Cup and enjoying this massive stage when they might be doing something else. It is a huge opportunity for us not just now, but for our future business in soccer as well here in the U.S.”

Would it have helped had the U.S. qualified? Of course, all admitted. However, when the World Cup shock wore off, the opportunity for teams and leagues and brands to creatively find new ways to engage in soccer in a still-growing marketplace, and do it directly with the fastest growing demo in the U.S. (Latinos who are upwardly mobile and soccer astute) is huge.

“It’s an opportunity all of us are looking forward to, and we are pretty confident the stories will help us grow beyond what was possible even four years ago,” Pastorino added. “For a community like Las Vegas, it can’t be much more exciting.”

The angst for World Cup is certainly a distant memory.

What: N.Y. Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso has put forth a US $500 million plan (half of which would be his own investment) for an American soccer entity to rival MLS and boost U.S. Soccer.
Why it matters: A push to host a future FIFA World Cup, providing a major boost to the sport in North America, would be helped by an even stronger, more unified pro base.

With American soccer fans —and brands— scrambling after the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCupfor the first time since the Reagan administration, there has been no shortage of opinions about potential ways to get the program back on track— from the grassroots on up, numerous outlets have reported that New York Cosmos (@NYCosmosowner Rocco Commisso has put forth a US $500 million plan for a league that might even compete with MLS (@MLS).

The outspoken Commisso —a native of Italy who has made his fortune in the U.S. cable industry— has his own issues with the U.S. Soccer Federation (@ussoccer), which has borne the brunt of the national team’s failure to qualify for Russia this summer. The 67-year-old, who has two lawsuits pending against U.S. Soccer, is offering to fund half of the planned half-billion dollar investment in the new entity, which would have a ripple effect on the sport and its partner brands, whether it exists as a direct competitor or a second-level feeder.

Would brands that haven’t traditionally invested in the sport and its fan base get on board, even more than they did for the 1994 men’s and 1999 and 2003 women’s World Cups held in the U.S.?
Rocco Commisso (Mediacom Communications Corporation)

The breadth of such a league could further connect with the Latino fan base, similar to how the NASL (@naslofficial), in which Commisso’s Cosmos compete, included Miami and Puerto Rico entries in its most recent (albeit trimmed down four-team) iteration.

Indeed, marketing is at the heart of Commisso’s dispute with USSF. In a series of letters to U.S. Soccer, FIFA, CONCACAF and the U.S. Senate that were made public this week, Commisso enumerated his demands as part of the huge investment, notably the dissolving of the relationship between USSF and its external marketing, for-profit outfit Soccer United Marketing, which he sees as too interconnected, to the detriment of other soccer entities (notably the NASL), as well as changes in national team licensing procedures, broadcast rights and other areas critical to the sport’s success here.

How might this proposal benefit soccer fans and brands? In short, a push to host a future FIFA World Cup, providing a major boost to the sport in North America, would be helped by an even stronger, more unified pro base. If so, would brands that haven’t traditionally invested in the sport and its fan base get on board, even more than they did for the 1994 men’s and 1999 and 2003 women’s World Cups held in the U.S.?

Cover Image courtesy NY Cosmos

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What: Dallas is a thriving soccer market, with a strong base of Spanish-speaking and bilingual fans. FC Dallas VP Gina Miller discussed some of the club’s strategies.
Why it matters: As a team that plays in Dallas/Fort Worth, engaging the Latino and Spanish-speaking fan base is a daily focus for Miller and her team.

There are few more vibrant sports cities than Dallas, and few areas with a thriving grassroots soccer community as well as an ever-growing Latino community that is both traditionally Spanish-speaking and a younger English-first population that still cherishes its Latino roots and traditions. One of those traditions is obviously soccer, so we wanted to talk to FC Dallas (@FCDallasabout how they engage with the community, and most importantly how they are growing and evolving as an MLS (@MLSclub to engage.

Gina Miller (@TheGinaMiller), VP of Media and Communications for FC Dallas, gave us a look.

Portada: How important is the Latino marketing effort to a club like FC Dallas?

Gina Miller: “It’s a huge priority for FC Dallas. According to the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau (@visit_dallas), the population of Dallas alone is 43% Latino. As a team that plays in Dallas/Fort Worth, engaging our Latino and Spanish-speaking fan base is something we focus on daily.”

Portada: Are there brands that have marketed directly to that community, and if so who and how?

G.M.: “A number of our partners are focused on connecting with our Latino fan base. One great example is FIESTA Mart (@FiestaMartgrocery stores. They host Spanish-language radio shows in primarily Latino communities around DFW. From that partnership, FC Dallas players hold autograph sessions and take photos with fans during the radio remotes.”

From the content side, engaging our Spanish-speaking fan base, whether it’s Spanish as a first language or bilingual fans, is incredibly important for us.

Portada: Is the audience specifically Spanish language or have you carved out a niche for young Latinos who are English speaking but also enjoy their Latino heritage?

G.M.: “From the content side, engaging our Spanish-speaking fan base, whether it’s Spanish as a first language or bilingual fans, is incredibly important for us. We’re fortunate to have a bilingual coaching staff as well as a roster comprised of at least 11 players who speak both Spanish and English.

To serve that fan base better on the content side, we’ve hired a bilingual multimedia journalist, Jhannet Sanchez. She has helped us tell stories that we weren’t able to tell in the past. Whether it’s a livestream on Twitter or a feature story, her content consistently remains among our most popular. She also does in-game interviews with our Spanish-speaking players on our game broadcasts on our local broadcast partner, TXA21, which she translates into English. Not easy but, again, well-received.”

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Portada: Do you market programs directly to a Mexican audience, or is the Latino message for the team more homogeneous?

G.M.: “Not specifically Mexican but FC Dallas has always had a Spanish-language radio broadcast. Carlos Alvarado has been the club’s Spanish play-by-play voice since 1996, the first year of Major League Soccer. He also writes match previews for FCDallas.com each week. On the community relations side, we also take into consideration our audience. For example, we also organize player appearances strategically so that we have Spanish-speaking players engaging students at elementary schools or community programs that have a large Latino population.”

“On the community relations side, we also take into consideration our audience. For example, we also organize player appearances strategically so that we have Spanish-speaking players engaging students at elementary schools or community programs that have a large Latino population.”

Portada: On the grassroots side, what are your programs like to include young players who also might come from a Spanish speaking household?

G.M.: “The majority of the FC Dallas Academy coaches are fluent in Spanish. Our current Academy Director, Luchi Gonzalez, played professionally in Peru and is fluent in Spanish. Fourteen of our league-high 24 players whom we have signed from our youth academy are Latino. Three of the four goalkeepers we have signed from our academy have played for Mexican Youth National Teams (Jesse Gonzalez, Carlos Avilez and Richard Sanchez). There is a strong tradition of Spanish-speaking players at FC Dallas and in the FC Dallas Academy, which is regarded as the best in MLS.”

Portada: Have supporter groups looked to aggregate just as a Latino source? how do you take advantage of that?

G.M.: “Most of our Latino fans are bi-lingual so the message is consistent. Sanchez and FC Dallas’ grass roots team work closely with El Matador, our Spanish-language Supporters group. This group formed 2009. This season, we combined all our Supporters sections at Toyota Stadium. It has added a healthy competition among the Supporters groups which has absolutely elevated the energy level at home games. During a recent rain-filled match against the Philadelphia Union, our head coach noted in his postgame press conference how loud the stadium was and how diverse the chants were. This gives FC Dallas a unique competitive advantage.”

cover image: Michael Barera