Sprint, Nissan Make Big Branded-Entertainment Plays With Soccer Shows

Marketers' Latest Project Is a First for Univision, Which Developed a Reality Program With Vidal Partnership

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- For aspiring sports stars -- and marketers such as Sprint and Nissan -- the reality show "El Juego Supremo" ("The Supreme Game") could become the "American Idol" of soccer as branded entertainment grows in the U.S. Hispanic market.
Coming this fall: 'Juego Supremo.'
Coming this fall: 'Juego Supremo.'

Making its debut this fall on Univision, the leading Spanish-language network, the series will bring together two groups of rookies, from Mexico and South America, that will be whittled down in a series of trials judged by legendary soccer players. The last show will be a Sept. 27 match in Los Angeles between the two teams, each with five rookies and five "legends."

Until now Univision has lagged behind other Hispanic TV and cable networks in developing branded entertainment, even though Univision commands by far the biggest Spanish-speaking audience. When Hispanic agency Vidal Partnership, New York, working with Miami branded-entertainment producer Animus Group, took the project to Univision, the network set up a Team Vidal to work on it.

Soccer reality shows already have built a track record with "El Reto Final" ("The Final Challenge"), which pits two professional soccer teams against each other and soon will start its third season on cable channel Fox Sports en EspaƱol.

"El Reto" also was created by Vidal for Nissan and Sprint, which are ready to try the concept on a larger scale.

Making goals
Nissan has seen ratings grow and response to promotions and sweepstakes increase over two years, said Melissa Adams, senior manager of media at the automaker.

"If anything was lacking on Fox, it was the reach," she said. "['El Juego'] may seem similar to 'El Reto,' but we think this will be broader and go beyond the core sports enthusiast."

In "El Juego," the focus will be on Nissan's Titan pickup truck and Rogue entry-level SUV, she said.

Sprint will use the series to showcase a Motorola Walkie-Talkie the coaches can use to talk to each other between plays and Samsung's Instinct smartphone, which will launch in June, said Regina Smith, Sprint's media manager.

"This is really the first time Univision has allowed advertisers to come in with a branded-entertainment property," Ms. Adams said.

Teams, not silos
It's also the first big branded-entertainment project at the partnership-marketing group Univision set up this year to get away from a silo-based sales structure. President-Ad Sales David Lawenda said each client now has its own team -- Team Sprint, Team General Motors, Team Procter & Gamble, etc. -- that consists of TV, radio and digital representatives from Univision, plus a "platform-agnostic person" from the 30-person partnership-marketing group.

"This deal really ramped up because of the restructuring of the companywide sales force," Mr. Lawenda said. "And we're in deep discussions with other major clients on branded entertainment."

Oswald Mendez, managing partner-integrated communications at Vidal, said the "Juego Supremo" project will include a microsite, exclusive mobile content for Sprint customers and branded events in addition to the TV series.

"It's not heavy product integration," he said. "It's more about the content." Up next from Vidal: a reality show for Sprint focusing on songwriting that will air on NBC Universal-owned Telemundo, the No. 2 Spanish-language network.
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