Futbol Fiesta Draws Engaged Crowds for Mexico Friendly

My first visit earlier this week to a Mexican men’s national team “home” match on U.S. soil was an eye-opener.

On Wednesday at MetLife Stadium, the energy in the stands during Mexico’s 4-1 “friendly” match win over Ivory Coast wasn’t really a big surprise. Many people around the game of soccer have told me that the fans of Mexico are among the loudest and most invested in sports played anywhere. But what I saw at Futbol Fiesta, the sponsor activation space — known as Soccer Celebration at big MLS and U.S. Soccer Federation events — impressed me. It’s why companies make multimillion-dollar deals with Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s commercial arm, which represents the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol (FMF), to connect with the Mexican national team’s fans.

At Futbol Fiesta, in the parking lot of MetLife Stadium, there were big crowds and long lines at every sponsor’s station.
At Futbol Fiesta, the sponsor activation zone, Castrol personalized T-shirts with fans' "Brazilian" names. For example, Luke becomes "Lucao."
Photo by: CHRISTOPHER BOTTA / STAFF
At Castrol’s booth, fans could give their names and have them converted to the Brazilian equivalent nicknames — like Kaka, or Ronaldinho. They also could get a Castrol-branded green T-shirt with the number 14 (for the 2014 World Cup) and the nickname on the back.

Coca-Cola hosted what was essentially a house party, with one man and a trio of women leading a large, raucous gathering in dancing and cheers for the FMF. Coke soccer balls were thrown or kicked into the crowd. At the adjacent tent of Powerade, fans took penalty kicks on a goaltender on a video screen. The line to have your picture taken with a model representing Makita power tools also was long.

In contrast, when I attended the 2012 MLS Cup in Los Angeles in December and the 2013 MLS All-Star Game two weeks ago in Kansas City, the crowds at SUM’s Soccer Celebrations were plentiful, but the fans were not nearly as engaged in the sponsor activations. In New Jersey, the sponsors had little trouble enticing fans to hand over their email addresses in order to enter raffles or spin a wheel to win prizes.

Coke drew a large and loud crowd at Futbol Fiesta.
Photo by: CHRISTOPHER BOTTA / STAFF
Inside the stadium, in the midfield luxury suite that was converted into a broadcast booth for ESPN2, play-by-play announcer Fernando Palomo and analyst Alejandro Moreno seemed amused by this novice’s fascination with the passion at Futbol Fiesta three hours before the match and the loud roars as the Mexican team took the field for warmups an hour before it. Palomo and Moreno call El Tri’s matches in English for ESPN, which bought the rights in January and also telecasts Mexican League games in English.

“Everywhere we go to call these matches, the crowds are big,” said Moreno, a former Venezuelan national team player who also played more than 200 matches in MLS. “None of it is a surprise to me.”

Attendance for the Mexico-Ivory Coast match was announced as 35,671, which to my eyes was a generous calculation. MetLife Stadium has a capacity of 82,000 and the stands appeared to be, at most, one-third full. But on this night, that’s a minor quibble. It was easy to see on Wednesday that, for the FMF and Soccer United Marketing, business was good.

Return to top

Related Topics:

Soccer, MLS

« Previous  |  Main  |  Next »
Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug