Heineken, Coke, Audi suffer MLS slump
|Heineken got slowed down when it comes to recognition during its third year as an MLS sponsor.
Three brands that became MLS sponsors in 2015 — Coca-Cola, Audi and Heineken — each saw a decline during the past year in the percentage of the league’s fans who could correctly identify them as an official MLS partner, according to the results of the annual MLS sponsor loyalty survey, conducted recently for SportsBusiness Journal by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.
Nearly 44 percent of MLS fans knew that Coke is the league’s official soda. That was the second-highest recognition rate in the survey, but it represented a survey-worst drop of 9 percentage points compared with the 2016 study. That decline, paired with Home Depot’s 2 percentage-point rise, meant that Coke’s two-season stint as the league’s most-recognized sponsor came to an end.
Ringing The Bell
The AT&T-MLS deal, in place for nine seasons, is the most-recognized wireless partnership in our sponsor loyalty series.
|PROPERTY-BRAND (PARTNER SINCE)||RECOGNITION RATE*|
* Surveys were conducted during each property’s most recent postseason. Response rates indicate the percentage of people polled who thought that the particular company was the league’s official wireless provider.
The good news for Coke, however, is that the brand’s awareness level is 15 percentage points higher than rival Pepsi received in 2014, the final season of the latter’s 14-year reign as the league’s official soda.
Audi’s drop was not as dramatic as Coke’s. A quarter of the fans recognized the German car maker’s official status, a drop of more than 7 percentage points over the past year. But 2018 could be a pivotal year for the brand’s soccer presence, as it is the final season of its current MLS deal. Additionally, D.C. United’s new $300 million Audi Field is scheduled to open next year, which should give the brand a boost in media exposure.
In the beer category, Heineken saw a little more success than its third-season brethren. Thirty-eight percent of avid fans were aware that the Dutch beer was an official partner, the fourth consecutive year of increased recognition by that segment. However, less than 28 percent of casual fans knew of the brand’s official status, a drop of 14 percentage points.
|Allstate’s official deal with MLS continues to pay off in terms of sponsor recognition.
Year Three Slump
In their third season as an MLS partner, Coca-Cola, Audi and Heineken each saw a drop in the percent of the league’s fans who knew they were an official sponsor.
NA: Not available; the brand was not tracked in the annual survey prior to 2015.
The results were also mixed for other sponsors.
AT&T, for example, not only maintained its stronghold atop the wireless communications category, its 9-year-old MLS partnership is the most-recognized such partnership in our sponsor loyalty series (see chart).
Etihad Airlines, however, did not fare as well. It was the only brand in the study to be topped by a category rival. Etihad, a partner since 2014, was correctly identified by less than 16 percent of the fans, a drop of 5 percentage points.
More than 21 percent of fans incorrectly thought that American Airlines, an official MLS sponsor from 2008-12, was the league’s official airline. That represented an increase of 7 percentage points compared with a year ago, the biggest improvement of any of the 70 brands (sponsors and nonsponsors) measured in the survey.
What Brands Do MLS Fans Consider Buying?
To read: 76 percent of MLS fans said they would be more likely to consider buying MLS’s official power tool if they knew which brand had that designation. The rate decreased to 27 percent when considering only those MLS fans who did not know that Makita is MLS’s official power tool.
|CATEGORY (MLS SPONSOR)||AMONG MLS FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR||AMONG MLS FANS WHO DID NOT CORRECTLY IDENTIFY THE SPONSOR||DIFFERENCE|
|Power Tool (Makita)||76%||27%||+49 pct. points|
|Tire (Continental)||70%||29%||+41 pct. points|
|Airline (Etihad)||53%||13%||+40 pct. points|
|Beer (Heineken)||77%||41%||+36 pct. points|
|Automotive (Audi)||73%||37%||+36 pct. points|
|Insurance (Allstate)||74%||43%||+31 pct. points|
|Bank (Wells Fargo)||66%||37%||+29 pct. points|
|Wireless service (AT&T)||73%||50%||+23 pct. points|
|Soft drink (Coca-Cola)||89%||68%||+21 pct. points|
|Home improvement store (Home Depot)||87%||68%||+19 pct. points|
What Brands Do Fans Think Are MLS Sponsors?
To read: 44 percent of MLS fans said they think Heineken should be an MLS sponsor, compared with 19 percent who think Stella Artois should have an MLS deal. Those numbers became 66 percent and 19 percent, respectively, when considering only those MLS fans who correctly knew that Heineken is MLS’s official beer.
|AMONG ALL MLS FANS||AMONG MLS FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR|
|MLS SPONSOR/COMPETITOR||RESPONSE RATES||DIFFERENCE||RESPONSE RATES||DIFFERENCE|
|Heineken/Stella Artois||44% / 19%||+25 pct. points||66% / 19%||+47 pct. points|
|Coca-Cola/Pepsi||69% / 48%||+21 pct. points||82% / 45%||+37 pct. points|
|Home Depot/Lowe’s||53% / 40%||+13 pct. points||62% / 33%||+29 pct. points|
|AT&T/Verizon||57% / 48%||+9 pct. points||70% / 42%||+28 pct. points|
|Makita/ Dewalt||19% / 31%||-12 pct. points||47% / 21%||+26 pct. points|
|Audi/BMW||38% / 42%||-4 pct. points||63% / 39%||+24 pct. points|
|Allstate/State Farm||39% / 40%||-1 pct. point||58% / 37%||+21 pct. points|
|Wells Fargo/Bank of America||38% / 42%||-4 pct. points||53% / 39%||+14 pct. points|
|Etihad/Emirates||11% / 20%||-9 pct. points||26% / 19%||+7 pct. points|
|Continental/Michelin||19% / 38%||-19 pct. points||30% / 36%||-6 pct. points|
Notes: Fans could select both the official sponsor and the competitor if they chose to do so. The one specific competing company listed was selected by Turnkey for consideration in the survey file.
Impact on Sampling and Support
Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of MLS?
|Unaffected / less likely||15%||17%||21%||39%||29%||48%|
Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/services if the company is an official sponsor of MLS?
|Unaffected / less likely||14%||17%||20%||37%||29%||48%|
Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of MLS?
|Unaffected / less likely||15%||19%||21%||38%||30%||50%|
Which of the following is an official sponsor of MLS?
* Official MLS sponsor
NA — Not available; this category was not asked about in the annual survey prior to this year.