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Volume 22 No. 40
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How Tecate gets on fight card

Mexican beer brand wants to be face of boxing and ponies up for the exposure

Tecate blanketed Las Vegas as sponsor of the Sept. 16 fight between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.
As Mexican beer brands Tecate and Corona slugged it out for top billing on the record-shattering Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao bout — sold as the “Fight of the Century” when it shattered boxing’s gate and pay-per-view records 2 1/2 years ago — Gustavo Guerra felt a bit like the dog that caught the car.

“I remember it came to a point where I said, ‘Oh my God, the fight is just around the corner, and we’re still in the back and forth,’” said Guerra, brand director of Tecate and chief architect of the company’s strategy in boxing. “We were still negotiating. But we put together a plan and we entered into production (of marketing materials), knowing the risk that we’d have to throw everything into the garbage if we didn’t close the deal.”

As it turns out, Tecate did land the deal for title sponsorship of the fight, outbidding Corona $5.6 million to $5.2 million, an eye-popping number that was more than three times what Mayweather had gotten for center-ring position in previous fights.

Branding was even featured on stairs.
On the eve of boxing’s latest blockbuster fight, the Sept. 16 draw between middleweights Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, Guerra flashed back to that negotiation. The passage of time has allowed for a more clinical assessment of the decision. Still, Guerra didn’t hesitate when asked whether the sponsorship was worth its colossal price tag.

“We had to close that deal,” Guerra said. “And it was worth every single penny. Because it was a before and after for Tecate. Before that fight, we could not say that we owned boxing. After that fight, it became Tecate with high ownership of the sport.”

Seated across from him, Esther Garcia, who joined parent company Heineken USA as vice president of Tecate in August, listened intently to Guerra’s answer.

“It was a lot of money,” Garcia said, nodding. “I know. I know. But these kind of fights don’t happen every day. And when it happens, you need to be there. It was an authority point for us.

“Also, it’s important internally. We are part of a big multinational company. So you demonstrate that by being in these big fights and owning the game, you connect with consumers. We saw the numbers. The engagement with consumers: high. The awareness: growing dramatically. We saw the results.”

Strong as those results were, by many metrics they’ve been bettered by what Tecate has done in boxing since then, thanks largely to the ascension of Alvarez into the slot as the fight game’s most bankable pay-per-view attraction. While competitor Corona would argue that its position with Premier Boxing Champions delivers more TV exposure than Tecate gets from its shows, there is no debating the bump Tecate gets at retail, particularly among Hispanic consumers.

For the Canelo-GGG show, Tecate executed its retail promotion in 8,000 stores, an increase of 3,000 over its footprint for Mayweather-Pacquiao. It expected those promotions to deliver metrics at least as strong as those it typically sees for big fights: sales increases of 20 percent nationally and 25 percent in Las Vegas for the two months leading up to the fight, plus sizeable gains in awareness in the general market and in affinity among Hispanics.

It was a reminder of the importance of lead time and the certainty of a big fight during each of the brand’s two key promotional windows: Cinco De Mayo and Mexican Independence Day.

It also spoke to the power of Alvarez, a Mexican star who in May became the youngest fighter to ever break 1 million buys as the A-side of a pay-per-view when, at age 26, he knocked out Amir Khan. Though final numbers aren’t in, boxing insiders projected about 1.5 million buys for Canelo-GGG.

And the red carpet from the event.
When Tecate signed on as a Golden Boy sponsor early last year, it also locked up a separate but concurrent deal with Alvarez, who not only plays well with the brand’s bicultural Hispanic target audience in the U.S. but also is hugely popular in Mexico.

“Tecate has had success around big fights regardless of who was involved, but it makes a huge difference now that you have a star who is Mexican,” said Loretta Lucero Fiss, president of Los Angeles-based Touch Point Marketing, which managed sponsorship activation for Golden Boy. “He hits right on the mark with their consumer. Boxing has been the perfect fit for them for a long time and Canelo really amplifies it.”

While the base of Tecate’s promotional campaign remains similar to that which it launched a decade ago — large, fight-themed retail displays, often paired with pay-per-view rebates — that brick-and mortar component has increased in size and scope. Tecate used to rejoice when a supermarket put 150 cases on the floor, Guerra said. Now, it has seen some use 1,200.

The brand now has TV spots in English that feature Alvarez, a departure from its Spanish-dominant approach of years past. It also builds out a digital component, with a steady stream of content featuring both fighters and an online contest. The sweepstakes that ran in the lead-up to Canelo-GGG yielded more than 135,000 entries, up from 90,000 for a similar digital campaign last year. Giveaways included the usual fight-themed merchandise and experiences, along with codes that winners can use to access the PPV online at no charge.

“Before, it was just about the retail and the activation at the fight,” Guerra said. “There was no digital component at all. Now, we know it’s probably the most important component when putting together a plan. Leading up to the fight is when consumers are engaged and following the fighter. So we need to be there. That’s been a big, big change.

“We’ve been doing this since 2007, so it becomes a challenge to stay fresh for the customer who says, ‘Bring me something new.’ If it’s just that same old formula, it wears out.”