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Volume 24 No. 112
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Heineken Continues To Focus On Growing Soccer Presence In North America

Heineken has been "pouring millions of dollars into its North American soccer play and, in the process, become one of the ubiquitous faces of the sport," according to Chris Smith of FORBES. Heineken is one of the "biggest investors in the growing domestic soccer market," and has "long been associated with soccer in Europe." But its push into North America "only began in earnest" in late '14 when the company "signed on to replace Budweiser as the official beer" of MLS, paying $50M over five years. Heineken "doubled down on its league-wide deal" by also partnering with seven teams. It has since "expanded to nine total team-level deals, a pretty significant tally considering the typical MLS team sponsorship runs in the mid-six figures." The company's "most recent deal was signing on to sponsor expansion club LAFC and partnering with the team’s supporters to design a dedicated in-stadium bar for the group." Soccer remains a "smaller interest among American sports fans." But Heineken USA Brand Manager Rob Ryder said that the "sheer population size makes the American market a goldmine." Ryder argues that by "focusing almost entirely on soccer" -- Heineken’s only other American sports property is tennis' U.S. Open -- the company is able to "punch above its weight against other beer brands that spread their money across multiple sports." Heineken has "expanded its North American soccer approach by becoming the presenting sponsor" of the Int'l Champions Cup. Heineken pays "more than double what other blue-chip brands like Nike and McDonald's spend to be among the tournament's premier sponsors." That deal "not only exposes Heineken to a different segment of American soccer fans, but it also puts the brand into major markets like Detroit, Nashville and Miami that MLS has yet to tap" (FORBES.com, 8/16).