It’s happening and it’s going to be big. Copa America Centenario is coming to the United States in 2016 and brand marketers need to take notice. To kick things off, here’s ten things you need to know about the tournament.
1. Copa America Centenario is a special event to celebrate 100 years of the prestigious South American championship known as Copa America. The tournament includes 16 nations from South, Central and North America and is considered by many to be the biggest and most important international sporting event to be held in the U.S. since the Olympics in 2002. From a soccer standpoint, it’s the most significant event to be staged in the U.S. since the FIFA World Cup in 1994. Take a look at this promo video to get in the mood.
2. Who’s playing? Sixteen (16) countries will participate in the event. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela. Two additional countries from CONCACAF will be included via playoffs soon.
3. Part of the appeal is the incredible star power that will be on show. Based on GESM’s most recent fan research seven of the ten most popular players in America are expected to participate: Messi (1), Neymar (3), Chicharito (5), Clint Dempsey (6), James Rodriguez (7), Luis Suarez (9), and Tim Howard (10). Messi, of course, is a true global icon and Madison Ave favorite. The three-time World Player of the Year boasts the 2nd largest following on Facebook for all athletes (behind Ronaldo), is the first soccer player to feature in ESPN’s top-10 list of America’s favorite athletes, and even has his own statue in Madame Tussauds in New York.
4. The tournament will be played in 10-12 major metropolitan markets across the U.S. in stadiums with a minimum capacity of 50,000. Think NFL stadiums packed with international soccer fans. This represents a dynamic opportunity for experiential marketing initiatives. U.S. Soccer is acting as the organizing entity for the event and will be selecting the specific markets from the 24 bidding cities in the near future. Various sources have cited Los Angeles as the likely location for the Copa America Centenario Final match.
5. The addition of the Centenario tournament establishes 2016 as yet another summer of soccer bonanza. Centenario will be played between June 3-26, intersecting with the UEFA Euro tournament: June 10-July 10. International soccer fans will have double the pleasure of watching the Euros during the day and Centenario in the evening. 2016 is also an Olympic year (Aug. 3-20) and the U.S. Women’s National Team will assume center stage again looking to capture the hearts and minds of the public just like they did this year during the Women’s World Cup. All these special events, of course, sit side by side with the domestic soccer league action from MLS, NASL and NWSL. Oh, and just for good measure the Guinness International Champions Cup will be back in July.
6. When marketers think about Centenario they tend to first think about the Hispanic audience – and with good reason. From a multicultural demographic perspective, the Tournament is an unprecedented happening since it features the many of the major Hispanic nationalities in the U.S. including the dominant Mexican audience. Spanish language broadcast rights were secured over a year ago by Univision, and the broadcaster is boldly predicting TV ratings for the event greater than those for World Cup 2014 in Brazil. It’s highly likely that heavily Hispanic populated metropolitan cities will be featured in the ultimate market selection.
7. Centenario though is far more than just an Hispanic event. Americans have demonstrated time and time again their interest in the “big event” and with matches being staged in the U.S. and broadcast during primetime weekday and weekend windows, expect mass mainstream attention to kick in. Such is the profile of the tournament it will undoubtedly capture the interest of every one of the six soccer consumer segments, including the large populous of Event Seekers. Sources indicate that FOX Sports will be the English-language broadcast partner and we fully expect that U.S. matches to establish new ratings records for the network.
8. From a sponsorship perspective, the tournament is currently a blank sheet. Event organizers (CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, and US SOCCER) are in the process of issuing an RFP to sponsorship sales agencies and brands should expect to hear their phone ring within the coming weeks. All existing CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, U.S. Soccer, and Mexican National Team sponsors will be the likely participants, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see several new brands join the party through sponsorship, as well as media-driven campaigns with Univision and FOX.
9. Many spotlights will shine on the tournament but one of the brightest will be on the U.S. Team. Current Team performances have been lackluster and Centenario represents a high profile opportunity for the U.S. to entertain and excite fans. For sponsors of U.S. Soccer this represents a tremendous opportunity to activate their current partnership (whether they become an event partner or not) through traditional media, digital and social, experiential, promotions and PR. In our opinion, several U.S. Soccer sponsors missed the boat with the Women’s World Cup this summer. We don’t expect the same to happen with Copa America Centenario.
10. Copa America Centenario – as the name implies – is a special event to celebrate a 100-year anniversary. It is a one-time occurrence. The event, however, will serve to open the door of collaboration between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL. The international soccer landscape is an ever-evolving animal as governing entities continually look for ways to maximize the commercial value of soccer’s global power. Just look at recent developments in Europe. Recognizing the declining interest and value of “national team friendlies” UEFA will be launching a new tournament format in 2018 with the UEFA Nations League. A commercially successful Copa America Centenario will stoke the fires of commercial conversation between the governing entities. It wouldn’t be called Centenario – but could we see CONCACAF and CONMEBOL teams participating together more regularly in the future – absolutely we could.