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Volume 26 No. 5
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Social Studies: Heineken's Rob Ryder On MLS Cup, Being A Lifestyle Brand

Next month’s MLS Cup, regardless of matchup, will be a win for Heineken. In addition to being a league sponsor, the brand has deals with the Red Bulls and Atlanta United -- who happen to be in the Eastern Conference Finals -- and due to their records, the winner of that matchup will host the league championship. Heineken (@Heineken) Brand Manager Rob Ryder said, “Depending upon the stadium, it will determine the plans that we are able to execute. In Mercedes-Benz Stadium, we have a bar that was designed in conjunction with some of the fans there. At Red Bull Arena, we have a bar that is outside the arena where we are able to activate prior to the game. Inside the stadium, we have a lot of branding opportunities as well.” He added, “In the past few years it has been the Canadian clubs and Seattle (in the MLS Cup). Even though we are affiliated with the league, we don’t have as big of a presence from the club standpoint.” But while activating at jewel events like a championship or All-Star Game is one thing, Heineken does not like to stop there. During expansion club FC Cincinnati's logo reveal last week, team execs celebrated on stage, and each had a Heineken beer in hand. Ryder said with a laugh, “It’s something we may or may not have had a hand in.”

SOCIAL SNAPSHOT
Must-follows: Copa90. They always have their finger on the pulse of what is happening in soccer.
Favorite apps: Instagram. I like the imagery, the flow and the format. For soccer, FotMob.
Average time per day on social media: Too much.

Importance of social media to brand’s strategy:
Every year we are increasing our investment and focus in the digital space. It’s one that keeps evolving and one that we need to stay on top of. As an alcohol brand, we have to toe a fine line. We have to be careful and diligent with who we partner with and who we reference in our social posts and have to make sure our messaging is responsible.

Heineken's position as a brand within sport:
For us, it’s very much about the lifestyle and the fandom of the sport. Our product is a beer that’s not going to be used on the pitch or on the field. It is something created for the fans so they can enjoy the sport. Being a premium brand, we want to give the fans that elevated experience.

Plans for MLS Cup:
We always look to capture content. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, because if ever the players are able to enjoy a beer or two, it’s when they win the Cup. We look to provide the players with something to celebrate in the locker room and share some of that imagery through our social handles.

Brand’s role in the Copa90 digital series on LAFC's launch:
That particular piece is one of the pieces I’m most proud of. The partnership with Copa90 stems from our desire to be closer to the fans. Copa90 is fan-centric. Their content is captured from the point-of-view of the fan and gives a deeper look at that life from the pitch. With LAFC -- who we sponsor -- we wanted to bring in a partner that understood what it meant to fans to have a new club and brand new stadium there. They were able to do a fantastic job capturing the essence of the fan and the emotion that goes into it. I was really happy Heineken could be a part of it. At the end of the day, we want to show Heineken is the beer of choice for soccer fans.

Any Copa90 plans for FC Cincinnati’s MLS debut?
We are definitely having considerations. We have to see how that will mete out and get an idea of what their plans with the stadium will be to assess if there will be an opportunity to help out there.

Social media approach to F1 in U.S.:
In this country, you have quite the variety of motorsports. The good thing is each of these caters to a different kind of fan. What we liked about the F1 experience is it’s a global sport, just like we’re a global beer brand, and the experience the fans and spectators get at F1 is one of the most premium and upmarket experiences you can get at motorsport. This was a natural fit. It allowed us to leverage it for our responsible messaging.

If you know anyone who should be featured for their use of social media, send their name to us at jperez@sportsbusinessdaily.com.