Sponsors U.S. Closed-Circuit Broadcasts of Latin Countries' Qualifying Rounds

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Anheuser-Busch knows that for the diehard Latino futbol fan, the World Cup can never start too early.
Anheuser-Busch has teamed with Traffic Sports to offer closed circuit broadcast in U.S. bars of Latin American soccer qualifying games.

That’s why, months before Spanish-language network Univision begins its all-soccer-all-the-time World Cup 2006 coverage across its three channels, Budweiser is already taking the World Cup to beer drinkers.

45 qualifying games
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 nations’ 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 that doesn’t mean sports fans, especially Latino immigrants, don’t want to watch them.

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 vice president of sales.

C-COM of Miami
C-COM Group, a Miami-based Hispanic public relations firm, spotted the potential for Anheuser-Busch to combine the passion for soccer that runs through those packed bars with Budweiser beer. During the games, Budweiser controls the half-time 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 local 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% of the beer drunk 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 that frequents them, like Mexicans, Colombians and Argentines. Although most of the venues are working-class bars, with names like Chibcha and Mama Linda, games are also transmitted in classier locales like New York’s Copacabana salsa and merengue club. Promotional teams can’t get to each place, so Budweiser shares the list of venues ordering the games with its distributors, and they are encouraged to do their own promotions. Traffic takes out print and radio ads to confirm venues.

Language logistics
Traffic even transmitted one game between Ecuador and Brazil in a Miami auditorium that was divided so that Ecuador’s fans heard a telecast in Spanish while Brazilians listened to the game in Portuguese.

Mr. Davidson 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.”

Engaged but uncounted
“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.”

Mr. Davidson sees potential for further development. What about a generic national ticket, he wonders, that could be promoted in ad campaigns and given away on radio shows, allowing ticket holders to walk into any venue airing one of the soccer games Traffic holds the rights to? Or using Traffic’s database to help marketers advertise to specific ethnic groups by targeting a bar packed with Dominicans or Mexicans or Colombians? For Mr. Davidson, this is just the beginning. .


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