NEW YORK -- It’s hardly a surprise that a beer brand would link up with a sports-focused pay TV network and one of its biggest properties to help build awareness and, ultimately, sales.
In the U.S. Hispanic market, such activity is often a foregone conclusion for brand managers seeking to target Latino men. Therefore, it comes as a bit of a surprise that prior to 2014, Heineken did little to specifically target Hispanic TV viewers.
The brand has made up for its late entry into the game by scoring a major goal: A multi-tiered sponsorship of UEFA Champions League telecasts on Fox Deportes that proved to be so effective, Heineken U.S. brand manager Bram Reukers has already committed to an encore campaign with the network in 2015.
Heineken’s partnership with Fox Deportes builds on its global sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League, which it renewed last October for an estimated $70 million per year through 2017-18, according to Forbes. According to sources close to the matter, the beer brand’s investment in U.S. Hispanic marketing is slightly more than $1 million.
Heineken’s U.S.-based efforts tied to its UEFA Champions League sponsorship began in 2009, thanks to a growing interest in soccer. After reviewing research that showed strong fan passion for soccer among Hispanics, Reukers was convinced the time to specifically targeted Spanish-speaking fans of UEFA teams was now.
“We decided not to ride a wave, but to create a wave,” he said. “With Fox Deportes, it became clear that we both have the same passion points for the game of soccer. We really wanted to leverage the platform to engage with the consumer through our sponsorship of the Champions League, and we did so with a three-pronged approach.”
First, Heineken aired commercials and in-game bumpers throughout the year on Fox Deportes, which helped to build brand awareness. Reukers then signed off on extending the conversation with consumers to the Fox Deportes website and via social media.
In a first-ever U.S. Hispanic market effort, Heineken and Fox Deportes used Twitter Amplify to bring the global #sharethesofa social-media effort to online Latinos. Through the Twitter hashtag #sharethesofa, soccer fans could interact with their favorite players in a real-time environment. According to Heineken, some seven out of 10 UEFA Champions League viewers watch matches alone, at home, with an Internet-enabled device. And roughly 77% of viewers who own tablets had their devices handy during Champions League matches, while the Champions League final on May 24 was one of the top-three Tweeted events of the year. As Hispanics over-index in their use of social media compared to non-Hispanics, capitalizing on a 360-degree campaign fueled by live television proved tremendously successful for the brewer.
“Awareness of the Heineken brand definitely grew in the U.S. Hispanic community over the last three months,” Reukers noted. “This is thanks to commercials that aired on Fox Deportes, but also thanks to our social-media engagement. Some 45 million people were reached on social media, and with #sharethesofa our engagement rate rose to 4.5% [of Internet users]. The average engagement rate is about 1.5%.”
Heineken’s inaugural year with Fox Deportes for its UEFA Champions League sponsorship was no doubt boosted by the ultimate success of longtime La Liga rivals Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, who played in the eagerly anticipated final held in Lisbon, Portugal. In the U.S., the Fox broadcast network carried the live game telecast in English, with Spanish-language coverage airing simultaneously on Fox Deportes.
The ratings were record-smashing: The Battle of Madrid was the top-rated Spanish-language program for the day, attracting 1.22 million viewers — 74% more Hispanic viewers than the 2013 title game between teams from Germany’s Bundesliga. “It was the third most-watched Spanish-language broadcast in the history of soccer tournaments,” Fox Deportes vice president of marketing and communications Steven Graciano said. According to Nielsen, some 749,000 persons 18-49 tuned in to Fox Deportes for the match. The title match was the culmination of what proved to be a season full of new ratings highs for Champions League games. "This was the most-watched season in Spanish-language television history," Graciano added.
Heineken also benefited from market-specific activation by participating with Fox Deportes in a title match viewing event held at an indoor facility in Houston fashioned to mimic the entrance to the stadium in Lisbon where the game was played. A capacity crowd of 1,200 fans attended the Houston event, Reukers said, adding that Houston was chosen to give Heineken a boost in an under-marketed DMA with a large segment of Hispanics of Mexican origin.
For Reukers, the biggest takeaway from Heineken’s partnership with Fox Deportes was its strong return on investment.
“It was unbelievable to see how engaged the Hispanic community is,” he said. “The Hispanic community is one of the most engaged there is, and when a brand is helping people get involved with something they are passionate about, the rewards are great.”
Asked if Heineken plans to align itself with other sports properties as part of its U.S. Hispanic marketing efforts, Reukers noted: “We believe that the biggest connection we have as a brand means aligning ourselves with the best of the best. This explains why we selected the UEFA Champions League as the platform for sponsorship.”
Graciano added: “The UEFA Champions League is one of the most coveted properties on our network. With strong ratings and buzz on social media, we’re very proud of this season being the most-watched ever among U.S. Hispanics. Champions League soccer will continue to be important to the Hispanic audience, as UEFA will continue to have the best talent in the world. That’s why it is great to see how Heineken tapped into this.
“We don’t do many brand activations, but this offered Heineken a national stage and a localized offering, along with the ability to build its brand presence among Latinos and a data capturing opportunity that will resonate for months.”