What is total engagement worth to advertisers? Is there even such a thing? If nearly one billion people are to be believed, total engagement is available every four years, it lasts about one month and comes in waves that last 90 minutes.
In 2010 over 24 million people in the U.S. (about 700 million worldwide) watched as Spain was crowned soccer king by beating the Netherlands 1-0 in the World Cup Final held in South Africa. Considering the level of engagement and circumstance, it may seem shocking that the networks covering the event in the U.S. failed to make a profit. Despite this, the fact that Disney (who owns both ABC and ESPN) and Univision paid nearly half a billion dollars for broadcast rights for the 2010 and upcoming 2014 World Cup shows just how important the event still is to broadcasters stateside.
The Univision broadcast of the final was said to have approximately 8.8 million viewers, while the second round match between Argentina and Mexico pulled in over 9 million viewers. With an audience of that magnitude it’s no wonder that the event is the holy grail for marketers targeting U.S. Hispanics. Goooooooal, indeed.
Vicente Navarro, Spanish-born Hispanic marketing director of Sports Endeavors, made the case that U.S. companies must use the world’s most beautiful game to reach out to Hispanics ahead of next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Sports Endeavors, commonly known as Soccer dot com, which turns 30 next year, is the U.S.’ largest soccer retailer. In an interview with EFE, Navarro said “Latinos have soccer in their blood…just like their religion and culture, which is learned from parents and grandparents, and no matter where we live, we follow our countries’ teams and identify with their players.” According to Navarro, the passion for the game runs so deep in fact that it transcends nationalism. He (any many other marketers) don’t see why this devotion should be limited to national teams – it should logically extend into local Major League Soccer teams.
Last season, its 17th, MLS featured 78 players born in Latin America (an average of over 4 Hispanics per team), which is a testament to the the value of the talent that resides south of the border, but also a clear indication of the league’s strategy to fill the stands with Hispanics by fielding them as well. Like any worker in any other industry, Latin American soccer players are eager to test themselves stateside. Lured by paychecks in dollars and superior organizational infrastructure, Latin American soccer players are coming to the MLS in droves. Of the seventeen Most Valuable Player trophies awarded by the league since its inception, nine of the winners have been Latin American.
As a born and raised Latin American, it’s always easy for me to relate to Hispanics of different backgrounds by bringing up the beautiful game. It’s one of our greatest common denominators – our gateway to everything intercultural, and at the same time, one of our strongest ties to our home countries. It’s almost impossible to talk about soccer in the U.S without a Latino interrupting the conversation to clarify that it’s fútbol, not soccer (failing to realize, or remember, that fútbol is merely another anglicism). When passion runs that deep, you can forget how it even started.
This post is also available in: Spanish