How to win at the big game

US marketers are targeting an Hispanic audience that will be consumed by this summer's soccer World Cup in Germany.

US marketers are targeting an Hispanic audience that will be consumed by this summer's soccer World Cup in Germany.

McDonald's first became an official World Cup sponsor back in 1994, but it wasn't until four years later that it began sending its customers to matches.

The company, which uses its World Cup programs to augment its year-round Hispanic marketing efforts, sent two people to a semi-final in France in 1998.

"We thought it was a huge deal back then," says Rick Marroquin, director of marketing, US Hispanic, for McDonald's USA. "So that we're sending 18 kids to Germany to serve as player escorts is unbelievable."

Since that initial involvement, McDonald's has only increased its marketing and communications efforts against the tournament, Marroquin adds.

The focal point of this year's World Cup initiative for McDonald's is the Player Escort program. "Our efforts behind the program are targeted at the Hispanic consumer," Marroquin says. "It amplifies out from there to other communities, but the bull's eye is Hispanic consumers because we know them to have the most passion about World Cup soccer."

Through local and national promotions, kids age 6 to 10 will have the chance to walk players out on to the field in a series of matches.

Nick Marrone, senior director of global sports marketing, says growing its sponsorship into something substantial for its customers has been the biggest change in McDonald's World Cup involvement.

"We've taken our sponsorship from on-field signage and made it something relevant for our customers," Marrone says. "The Player Escort program lets us speak to families and kids and deliver a unique World Cup component. It's also a part of the balanced active lifestyle message we push."

Teaming with Mexico

As part of its World Cup efforts, McDonald's is also leveraging its three-year partnership with the Mexican national team. The club has played five matches in the US over the past few months and McDonald's has an "on-site activation point" with promotional and informational materials at each of these matches.

"At the last match, on Cinco de Mayo in Los Angeles, we brought 15 kids from around the US to be player escorts, [and] three of them are going to Germany," Marroquin says.

McDonald's also works closely with Kikin Fonseca, a member of the Mexican National team. Fonseca is not only featured in the World Cup and Mexican advertising elements, but on the day before the team's matches in the US he also holds an exclusive clinic with 150 local kids on the same field the team will play on.

Aside from teaching kids about soccer, Fonseca talks about living a balanced and active lifestyle - and how he manages to lead one.

McDonald's has bilingual signage in all 13,000 restaurants. Marroquine says about 3,000 of those "subscribe to more in-depth bilingual signage and those stores will all be receiving 'the World Cup is here'-type signage."

A number of local markets with large Hispanic populations are doing promotional efforts around the World Cup. The New York market is doing a specific promotion featuring collectible cups and a Dulce de Leche milk shake. The Southern California market is doing commemorative cups featuring the World Cup logo and the Mexican National Team.

Javier Galindo, president of Hispano USA, a San Antonio, TX-based marketing agency, is working with Maseca, one of the largest corn-flour manufacturers in the world, on a World Cup promotion aimed at US Hispanics. The "Maseca Adds Flavor to the World Cup" promotion includes 20 television spots - eight shot in Mexico and 12 in Germany. The in-language spots are airing on Univision, Telemundo, and Aztec America.

"Every time Mexico advances, we have a new spot that will air," Galindo says. "The campaign targets the entire Hispanic community, but we chose the Mexican team because the US Hispanic market is composed mainly of Mexicans."

In addition to the TV spots, Maseca will hold a number of in-store promotions at 476 locations in the top 11 Hispanic markets in the US. Consumers will have the chance to kick a soccer ball into a goal to win soccer balls and shoes, water bottles, and a pocket calendar for the World Cup. Product sampling will also take place and consumers who purchase three Maseca products will get a free CD.

The promotion also includes a sweepstakes. Galindo says 38 retailers and tortilla manufacturers will have the chance to win trips to three Mexican games and 50 consumers will win a trip to the final game.

Brenda Raney, executive director of corporate communications for Verizon Wireless, says the company's first World Cup promotion involves providing Spanish-language highlights from the 2002 and 2006 World Cups to V-Cast users.

"Not everybody will be able to watch every single game," Raney says. "And there are a lot of people constantly on the move who want to keep track of the games. This allows them to do that."

Highlights from 2002 have been available for over a month, and 2006 highlights will be available shortly after the first games kick off. The company is working on getting V-Cast phones in the hands of Hispanic sports and news reporters so they can report about the program.

Verizon Wireless is running a number of other activities including a sweepstakes and trivia contest that can be accessed at a Spanish-language Web site, Getitnow.espanol.vzwshop.com/alemania2006/.

"The technology is evolving to where the World Cup content is more robust," Raney says. "And it sets the stage for what we will be doing in the future."

Scoring goals at the World Cup

Peter Land, GM of Edelman's sports and sponsorship practice, and Tony Signore, CEO of Alan Taylor Communications, offer advice on how to connect with Hispanic soccer fans this summer:

Partner with a player or team. It's important to give a human face to the program

Don't make this a one-off promotion. It will look as if you're just taking advantage of their interest in soccer to sell something

Avoid active players. The demands on players' time at the tournament are much too great and they won't be able to capitalize on the key moments and opportunities. Use former legends, who, from an Hispanic standpoint, still resonate and are still heroes

Start marketing programs during the qualification phase. This is the opportune platform for every World Cup partner to come out, tell their story, and begin to execute their global and regional marketing communications programs

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