Special to NYSportsJournalism.com
November 13, 2014: Heineken is going all out for its new alliance with MLS by putting its money where its beer is.
The brewer, which last month signed a marketing deal to become the official beer sponsor of MLS beginning in 2015, by becoming the official partner of seven clubs: Heineken becomes the official beer for the Chicago Fire, D.C. United and expansion clubs New York City FC and Orlando City SC; and the the official import for the Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls.
The deals also kick in in January. Financial terms were not shared.
“We are thrilled that with the success of our local partnership, Heineken was encouraged to expand its relationship with professional soccer in North America through Major League Soccer,” Dynamo evp Steven Powell said in a statement.
Echoed Orlando City founder Phil Rawlins, “This is a landmark agreement for Orlando City, and a partnership that helps strengthen the connection between the world’s game and its most passionate fans. Heineken’s global recognition, innovative marketing and fan engagement will make them a valuable partner as we approach our MLS debut next year.”
Heineken replaces Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, which had been a partner with the league since 1995.
Among other motivations to sign the deal, Heineken said that U.S. soccer fans are 50% more likely to sample imports than fans in other sports.
“By partnering with these clubs we’re able to more directly connect with American soccer fans and provide them with a premium experience—and beer—they have come to expect from Heineken,” Nuno Teles, CMO for Heineken, said in a statement. “We are known worldwide as a genuine soccer brand, and these partnerships will provide a direct platform to reach the soccer fans and fuel their passion for the game.”
Among its activations, Heineken will be the presenting sponsor of MLS Rivalry Week; will have multi-media marketing, including "strong visibility during nationally broadcast matches"; on-site, digital and POP materials.
Marketing support for each club deal was not detailed but is expected to include print, Internet, social media and in-stadium activations.
In Chicago, activation will include in-market retail collaboration, two entitlement spaces at Toyota Park (The Heineken Second Star Club, a premier, all-inclusive luxury club; and the Heineken Terrace, a group hospitality area), activation at the Chicago Fire Soccer Center on the North side of the city, and presenting partnership of Chicago Fire Rec Soccer Program.
“We are incredibly excited to have Heineken, an iconic brand, as a partner of the Chicago Fire and to serve as an extension of their commitment to soccer in the United States,” Atul Khosla, Chicago Fire COO, said in a statement. “We look forward to bringing this partnership to life and enhancing the Club experience for our supporters.”
In support of responsible drinking, Heineken will also join the Fire’s efforts (as well as similar efforts with the MLS and other clubs) to promote safe alternatives to driving, including the Fire’s popular Pub to Pitch match day bus program and Responsible Fan of the Match, which encourages responsible drinking and designated drivers on match day. Heineken will serve as the presenting partner and supporting partner of these initiatives, respectively.
The Heineken alliance coincides with MLS' 20th anniversary in 2015, which will see the league use a new-look crest, and add two expansion clubs and new media partners.
Concurrently, NYCFC unveiled its jersey, which will be sponsored by Etihad Airways under a five-year deal. Last week, Orlando revealed its jersey, sponsored by Orlando Health and today unveiled a multi-year deal with Great Clips to serve as the club’s official hair salon beginning with the inaugural season.
Through this partnership, Orlando City fans will "have the opportunity to capitalize on the 'Three Goals = Free Haircuts' Great Clips promotion starting with the cub’s 2015 MLS season." According to Orlando, fans will be "encouraged to redeem their game ticket stub for one free haircut within a week of any home match when the Lions score three goals or more." In addition, Great Clips will be permitted the use of Orlando City’s marks and logo in promotions and marketing campaigns.
Regarding Heineken, according to Gary Stevenson, president and managing director for MLS Business Ventures, "Heineken does a tremendous job in activating their partnerships and we’re excited to see that creativity come to life alongside our league and these seven MLS clubs."
It's Taps For Bud As Heineken Signs As Official MLS Partner
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