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A CMO’s View: Heineken Stays Ahead Of The Game By Sponsoring Fastest Growing Sport In U.S.
CMO Nuno Teles shares how his brand remains progressive by taking bold moves with its sponsorship opportunities.
For Heineken’s CMO Nuno Teles, being ahead of the curve makes all the difference.
“We were the first European brand to be imported into the U.S. after prohibition,” said Teles, “We are very much connected to everything that is progressive. We jump into what’s growing!”
Continuing its tradition of being a progressive brand, Heineken announced last October that it had entered into a long-term agreement to be the Major Soccer League’s official beer.
“We are associated with the best soccer in Europe,” said Teles whose brand has sponsored the UEFA Champions League (Union of European Football Association) since 2005, “Having that association positions us as a credible brand to drive the growth of soccer in the U.S.”
According to Teles, the MLS sponsorship gives Heineken a truly national platform to reach the league’s 90 million consumers, and makes it possible for the brand to create its own future by sponsoring the fastest growing sport in the U.S.
“If you are not bold enough, you do not stand above the crowd,” said Teles, “This is an opportunity to drive a cultural shift, which is what I like about life – embracing the unknown.”
In today’s CMO’s View column, Teles helps remove some of the unknown around sponsorship opportunities by sharing how his brand approaches such partnerships – and what can be gained when a brand finds the right fit.
Heineken’s Nuno Teles On Soccer, Sponsorships and Why His Brand Is Betting Big on the MLS
- Compare your goals and see where there is overlap. This will ensure that sponsorship activities will benefit both the brand and the organization.
- Be true to your brand. Make sure that a partnership amplifies an established brand platform or the brand values.
- Define your target audiences. Evaluate the organizations audience and ensure they are the exact audience you are trying to reach.
- Ensure that it creates the opportunity for new, bold ideas that drive digital conversation. This will keep the conversation going beyond the festival, the season or the event.
Amy Gesenhues: Can you give me a quick overview of Heineken’s brands and your role within the organization?
Nuno Teles: HEINEKEN USA is the leading upscale import beer company in the United States. Our brands include Heineken, Heineken Light, Dos Equis, Strongbow cider, Tecate, Newcastle, Amstel Light and Desperados.
I specifically lead the marketing strategy for all of HEINEKEN USA’s portfolio brands.
Amy Gesenhues: Tell me about Heineken’s new Major League Soccer sponsorship – what does it entail on a marketing level?
Nuno Teles: Heineken will be The Official Beer of MLS, along with seven individual clubs, and will present MLS Rivalry Week.
The agreement between the two brands will see Heineken owning exclusive rights to MLS content, and is the latest indicator in the rise of the world’s most popular sport in the United States, particularly amongst Millennials.
With the third highest average attendance of any U.S. sports league, the highest percentage of Hispanic and Millenial audience of any major U.S. sport, and more than 22 million Americans actively playing soccer in the United States, MLS has proven to attract a diverse and cosmopolitan audience that reflects Heineken’s adult consumer.
While we don’t disclose our specific marketing budget, I can say that our commitment to partnerships has grown and we are committed to helping soccer grow in the U.S.
Amy Gesenhues: How do you come to select the organizations you sponsor?
Nuno Teles: Our brands look to activate bold sponsorships that connect with consumers in new ways to grow the portfolio.
The MLS partnership is a continuation of our legacy relationship with UEFA Champions League. We have been a sponsor of UEFA Champions League since 2005.
We are bringing the brand’s global involvement with soccer to the U.S. and broadening the brand’s involvement to the growing league domestically.
Soccer has been a Heineken sponsorship platform for many years. It’s part of our brand DNA. This relationship with MLS coincides with their 20th season and the next step in the league’s evolution.
Through the sponsorship, and by leveraging MLS’ passionate and growing fan base, Heineken strives to further elevate its global status as a world class beer and provider of unparalleled fan engagement. At heart, we are passionate soccer fans just like our consumers.
Another one of these passion points is music, and we have relationships with Ultra and Coachella. In both cases, we look for deep, long lasting relationships that connect to consumer passion points.
Amy Gesenhues:Who are the stakeholders within Heineken when managing sponsorships?
Nuno Teles: We have a dedicated team that helps us both at the global and U.S. level to vet and navigate the process of sponsorship opportunities.
We work cross-functionally with employees throughout the organization in order to ensure that we are able to connect with fans in best way possible.
Amy Gesenhues: For a Heineken sponsorship to be considered beneficial – what must it deliver? Brand recognition? Wider audience? More exposure?
Nuno Teles: A beneficial partnership produces all of those, increased recognition, a wider audience and more exposure. But a truly special one not only broadens an audience of viewers, but brings consumers closer to the brand through deep engagement.
When you create a dialogue around something people are truly passionate about, they will interact with your brand.
Take UEFA Champions League for example. We uncovered an insight that an overwhelming number of fans were watching matches alone due to afternoon kick-off times. So we launched the #sharethesofa campaign to give these soccer fans a forum to talk about the match with other solo fans and even soccer legends.
We helped them connect with other like-minded individuals through social media and grew engagement, frequency and quality of social conversation.
In the end we helped grow the appeal of UCL with new fans, and strengthened it with existing ones.
Amy Gesenhues: When is a sponsorship opportunity not the right fit?
Nuno Teles: A sponsorship opportunity is not the right fit if the two partners agree on short-term outcomes but not the ultimate end-goal.
Our partnership with MLS is a good fit because Heineken is a brand that is globally associated with soccer and is already part of UEFA Champions League.
We share the same goal with MLS of expanding the game’s popularity and importance here in the states, which makes it such a good partnership for each of us.
Amy Gesenhues: What do the organizations that Heineken sponsors gain from the relationship?
Nuno Teles: Organizations that Heineken sponsors gets bold, creative experiences that encourage their consumers to open their world and cross their borders.
For MLS, Heineken will provide signage, intellectual property rights and retail activations for the seven MLS clubs we will bepartnering with. At the same time, we are aiming to enhance the fan experience in each city by providing American soccer fans with a premium experience and beer.
Amy Gesenhues: How do you measure the success of a sponsorship?
Nuno Teles: Social interaction is a top metric for us. We’ve shifted our marketing strategy to a digital-first approach and it is our best way to track how our partnerships influence conversation.
With MLS, we expect to utilize digital video to engage soccer fans across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The past 12 months have seen a 65 percent increase in Twitter conversations on MLS and soccer is the second largest sports category on YouTube for 21 to 34-year-olds.
Soccer fans are highly engaged in social media, so we will measure our effectiveness by the amount of conversation that we drive and sustain.
— Heineken (@Heineken) March 10, 2015
Amy Gesenhues: What are goals with the new MLS sponsorship?
Nuno Teles: We are betting big on soccer in the U.S and we view the sponsorship with MLS as far more than just a sponsorship, we see it as a true partnership to grow MLS and the game in the U.S.
In Europe, Heineken is closely associated with the UEFA Champions League and we look to elevate the brand to that status with MLS in order to reach 90 million Americans.