By Laurel Wentz
Anheuser-Busch knows that for the die-hard Latino futbol fan, the World Cup can never start too early.
That’s why, months before Univision begins its all-soccer-all-the-time World Cup 2006 coverage across the Spanish-language network’s three channels, Budweiser is already taking the World Cup to beer drinkers.
In September and October thousands of immigrants from Central and South America will pay $15 to $20 at hundreds of bars to watch their countries’ soccer teams play in the qualifying rounds that determine which 16 teams will face each other next June in Germany. None of the 45 qualifying games, which started in March and end in October, are televised in the U.S., but they have a huge potential audience of sports fans, especially Latino immigrants.
Anheuser-Busch is the exclusive sponsor of closed-circuit TV broadcasts of the World Cup qualifying matches, through a deal with Traffic Sports, a soccer-promotion outfit based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that owns the rights to the games.
“We bring the games down by satellite, add a more U.S. Hispanic commentary and set up scramblers so bars and restaurants can receive the signal if they buy it,” said Aaron Davidson, Traffic’s VP of sales.
C-COM Group, a Miami-based Hispanic public relations firm, spotted the potential for Anheuser-Busch to combine the passion for soccer with Budweiser beer. During the games, Budweiser controls the halftime show, gives away World Cup trinkets, hosts trivia games and has four minutes to air its TV commercials, said Luis Gonzalez, C-COM’s president.
Budweiser sends teams to the bars. Before the game, models hand out country-specific Budweiser bracelets and offer to paint fans’ faces with the colors of their countries. Fans sing their team’s soccer chants, called trovas.
The halftime trivia quizzes are also country-specific and, like the games and the trovas, all in Spanish. When Argentina plays Bolivia, for example, fans are asked, “Who was the captain of the Argentine team that won the 1978 World Cup?'” and “Which Bolivian futbol figure is nicknamed ‘El Diablo’?” Mr. Gonzalez estimated that between half and 75 percent of the beer consumed during the matches is Budweiser.
Mr. Davidson said his company has a database of more than 3,000 establishments, mostly in New York, New Jersey and Florida, equipped to show the games. The database even pinpoints bars by the nationality they attract, such as Mexicans, Colombians and Argentines.
He said a single match may be transmitted to more than 1,000 establishments, with about 200 viewers at each venue.
For an advertiser, it takes some faith. Nielsen doesn’t measure several hundred beer-guzzling, cheering guys with painted faces and Budweiser World Cup T-shirts.
“Budweiser is open-minded,” Mr. Davidson said. “We tell them how many venues there are, what the fire marshal’s capacities are and estimate the number of viewers.”
“There’s a difference between having a certain number of viewers [in Nielsen ratings] and people living what they’re viewing,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “They identify the [Budweiser] brand with their home team. That may be the ultimate definition of engagement.”