By Barry Janoff
March 4, 2016: On the eve of the 20th season for Major League Soccer, and just five months shy of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Heineken said it would pair its "decades of passion for soccer with the momentum the beautiful game has seen in the U.S. via a multi-platform campaign, "Soccer Is Here."
The effort is anchored by a trio of spots featuring icons from the sport: David Villa, who built his career with Valencia, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid and is now a captain for MLS New York City FC; MLS and U.S. National Soccer Team legend Landon Donovan; and Carli Lloyd, captain for the U.S. Women's National Team. whom Heineken said is the brand's first female athlete spokesperson.
Heinekin is an official marketing partner with MLS as well as UEFA Champions League. The brewer also plans to have a significant presence in Brazil during the Olympics, including a Holland Heineken House, a hospitality destination that, according to the brand, "will be in the thick of the action for the Rio de Janeiro Games."
"It's been a long road for fans of soccer in America, and as a supporter of the game for decades abroad, Heineken toasts to fans old and new," Ralph Rijks, svp for Heineken. "As the world's most international beer, it's clear to see soccer's popularity is brewing in America."
Support includes print, Internet, social media and fan activation. Lead agency is Publicis New York.
As part of the "Soccer Is Here" effort, a "Never Miss A Minute" a promotion being held in conjunction with MLS and UCL. Heineken and sibling Heineken Light said they would offer prizes "every minute of every MLS and UCL match" to people (21 and older) who upload a photo of themselves watching any MLS or UCL match while responsibly enjoying a Heineken to a dedicated Web site. (Details here.)
Heineken said that 90 winners per match would win such prizes as soccer gear, subscriptions to MLS Live, or one of seven grand prize trips for two to an MLS or UCL group match.
A version of "Never Miss A Minute" incorporates people watching MLS or UCL games while in Buffalo Wild Wings, Hooters and other designated locations. (Heineken said to check with local restaurants for current details on promotions and specials.)
According to Villa, "The U.S. has taken a liking to soccer. There are more games televised, and more people are watching. Everywhere I have travelled in the U.S., I see fans eager to get to know the game I love.
"Heineken's support of soccer is known wherever you go around the world, and with their championing of the game in the U.S., myself and other players are excited to showcase the game we love to fans all across the country."
In his "Soccer Is Here" spot, Villa explains how soccer isn not just big in Europe and is filling stadiums across the U.S.
Donovan offers his personal view where the sport was when he started, the current growth of the game and how the passion he sees will only grow in years to come.
Lloyd's spot, which breaks in April, offers a perspective from the support for and rise of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team.
"We are excited to be part of that momentum and heritage, and we'll be bringing fans closer to the game all year long," said Rijks.
"We are excited to be part of that momentum and heritage, and we'll be bringing fans closer to the game all year long."
Separately, Heineken just released a global campaign, "There's More Behind The Star," with actor Benicio Del Toro.
The Heineken soccer campaign is unique in that a majority of active athletes in the U.S. — NBA, MLB, NFL — are not permitted to endorse beer and alcohol brands, with companies tending instead to go with league-wide alliances or retired stars such as Donovan.
Nascar does have beer alliances with race teams, cars and drivers, but the drivers themselves are not seen in actual marketing, which leads with a "Drink Responsibly" tact.
Last year, Modelo Especial used active soccer stars Clint Dempsey and Miquel Layún in a marketing push. Michelob Ultra also featured pro cyclist Lance Armstrong while he was still competing (ultimately ending the alliance when allegations of Armstrong and PEDs went public).
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