Gone are the days where players like Mexican legends Jorge Campos, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, and Rafa Marquez are brought to Major League Soccer as athletes in the doldrums of their careers who can help sell tickets. Instead, we’ve entered a new era of collaboration where the two most important leagues in the Concacaf region are working hand-in-hand to ensure their competitiveness on the global stage.
The fast-approaching 2026 FIFA World Cup to be played in the North American triumvirate plays a big role in the recent cooperation, of course. From a competition standpoint, synergy between MLS and Liga MX is perhaps the only way both will reach the global standing they seek. Beyond this, the shared cultural connection and population migration between the U.S. and Mexico makes the two inexplicably linked.
As such, collaboration has helped usher in a new narrative in which Mexican players still in the primes of their careers join the nascent U.S. and Candian-based league. Players like Carlos Vela, the 2019 MLS MVP, have torn up the league. Rodolfo Pizarro scored Inter Miami’s first ever goal this past weekend and looks to have a great season ahead. Alan Pulido has two goals already for Sporting Kansas City. Chicharito, while still scoreless in the 2020 season, is the biggest name of them all and still has plenty left to give the sport and the league as the Galaxy look to return to prominence.
The on-field boost has already paid dividends, but the challenge for the league – and for brands – is how to take the injection of Mexican talent and turn their profile into a way to approach and target the roughly 40 million Mexican-Americans.
Tecate hones in on young Mexican-American soccer fans
Mexican beer brand, Tecate, recently announced a partnership with Vela that sees him become the figurehead of their new brand campaign, Mexico is in Us. The brand’s campaign is an effort to use soccer as a vehicle to reach young Mexican-American beer drinkers. Vela will begin appearing in promotional material this month with digital content on Tecate’s channels beginning this summer.
Tecate considers Vela a “Mexican maverick” as one of the most recognizable Mexican athletes in the U.S. By aligning with Vela, Tecate will rely on the LAFC star to be an aspirational figure for the next generation of Mexican-Americans.
“We want Mexican Americans to embrace the 200 percent: 100 percent Mexican and 100 percent American. It’s about those values of togetherness, inclusivity. It’s about celebrating who we are and being unapologetically Mexican-American. Carlos embodies this very, very well.” – Oscar Martinez, senior brand director for Tecate at Heineken USA
The increased focus on soccer means a decreased focus on boxing, but the brand sees that as a more desired avenue as they look to become more relevant with younger consumers. The Vela partnership is just one soccer venture – Tecate is also sponsoring the 2020 Leagues Cup that features eight teams from MLS and Liga MX. More collaboration!
BODYARMOR adds Carlos Vela to athlete portfolio
In the fourth quarter of 2019, MLS signed a multiyear deal with BODYARMOR that saw the Coca-Cola Company beverage become the official sports drink partner in the U.S. Not satisfied with just a league deal, the second most-sold sports drink sold at convenience stores, according to BevNET, is looking to grow their athlete portfolio. Joining the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Mike Trout, Donovan Mitchell, James Harden, and more is Carlos Vela.
Like Tecate, BODYARMOR hopes to grow its marketshare among Hispanics by leveraging two things: MLS and Carlos Vela. According to Numerator, BODYARMOR under-indexes among Hispanics, while over-indexing strongly among people under the age of 24.
Where do brands go from here?
Tecate and BODYARMOR are just two examples of what expects to be a considerable bump in targeting of Mexican-American soccer fans by MLS and brands. The audience has long demonstrated their insatiable appetite for soccer, particularly when Mexican teams and players are involved. Just look at our Soccer on U.S. TV recap for February where seven of the 10 most-watched games featured Liga MX teams.
With such an attentive audience hungry to consume the sport the opportunity is ripe. In this new era of collaboration where top Mexican players see MLS as a viable landing spot while in their prime, brands must capitalize and anchor themselves to players like Chicharito, Vela, and Pizarro, as well as MLS and its teams as the Mexican influence continues to grow.