Three Lessons on Crafting a Mainstream Strategy that Uniquely Engages Diverse Segments

Why Should Advertisers Care About Soccer?

Soccer’s rise in popularity and lower advertiser clutter creates opportunities to differentiate.

From the 2014 World Cup U.S. broadcast and cable network ratings, it is clear that the interest in soccer in America has gone mainstream. Consider these statistics about the tournament:

And, not surprisingly, Spanish language viewership also grew significantly—3.4 million watched the World Cup on Univision through the first 32 matches, up from 2.3 million in 2010.

In addition, Nielsen TV viewership statistics for the 2013 regular MLS season show that soccer attracts a broad audience—while MLS is significantly more appealing to Hispanics than other leagues (Latinos are 34% of MLS viewers vs. 8% of NFL viewers), the MLS audience is 65% white and 68% male. More importantly, MLS engages a younger and more mobile audience:

  • 52% of MLS fans who have expressed strong interest in attending live events and viewing games on TV are ages 18-34, the highest percentage of any pro league.
  • MLS fans are far more likely to be smartphone owners with 76% of MLS fans owning a smartphone compared to 66% of the general U.S. population.
  • 42% of MLS fans have viewed mobile video in the past 30 days compared to 21% nationally.

What is a Total Market Strategy?

One overarching brand strategy that considers and integrates the needs of diverse segments.

If marketers want to take advantage of the differentiation opportunities provided by soccer, they need to figure out how to tap its overall appeal while engaging its core Hispanic fan base at the same time. This challenge is not unique to soccer marketing—it is one that brands face as the American mainstream increasingly embraces multiple cultures while demanding more personalization due to demographic changes and advances in technology.

In response to these changes, corporations established add-on multicultural initiatives that are now becoming central to overall marketing plans as part of a “Total Market Strategy.” There had been no single definition or best practices on crafting such a strategy, until the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) recently engaged a broad coalition of advertisers and general market and cultural marketing associations to come up with the following definition:

“An internal-external mindset and practice, which aims to enhance growth effectiveness by actively integrating diverse segments – from the campaign inception through the entire strategic process and execution. This could lead to one fully integrated cross-cultural approach, individual segment approaches, or both, but always aligned under one overarching strategy.”

What makes a Total Market Strategy different is that it considers the needs of diverse segments as part of the upfront business planning instead of multicultural initiatives being of a one-off opportunity to drive sales if the company’s budget is big enough to afford it.

What Can Future Soccer Marketers Learn From 2014 World Cup Ads?

1. Use culture (or soccer) to pay off the brand promise, not the other way around.

Brands must be the heroes of the story, meeting the consumer’s need that is directly tied to the category instead of just being celebratory of Hispanic or soccer culture. The best two examples on how to do this well are: the ‘Casco Traductor’ ad which shows how Radio Shack delivers technology solutions that allow people to connect with Hispanics. This ad is part of their overall “do it together” initiative which shows customers how they can bring their technology ideas to life at Radio Shack. The other one is State Farm Latino’s #WORRYFREE Celebrations ad which shows how insurance is there for people when they have accidents while having a good time.

2. Define the success of a Total Market Strategy both on process and output.

A successful Total Market Strategy can lead to executing ads that portray cultural diversity to different degrees, all of which can powerfully engage a target audience: speaking to the needs of a very specific segment, showing universal truths with a cultural flair, celebrating a variety of cultures or portraying common needs of the overall population without a cultural twist. Process is perhaps more important because a creative brief that captures both universal truths and segment specific insights is the best way for marketers to make fully informed choices to balance sales impact and spend efficiency. On the surface, it looks like T-Mobile’s Shakira ad involved some upfront thought as it portrays the universal truth of wireless plan limits, Shakira has a dual general and Hispanic appeal, and it was shot to deliver English and Spanish versions.

3. Leverage the brand’s global advertising strategy, if it has one.

The advertising industry routinely praises Coca-Cola and McDonald’s for being on the leading edge of multicultural audience engagement. The reason why those organizations are able to do so is because they have been executing in-country marketing programs for more than 40 years and have experience developing overarching global campaigns. Their brand awareness is strong among their different target segments and they have processes in place to consider multiple audiences at one time. On Univision, McDonalds is airing both a global ad that shows average people from around the world doing soccer tricks which is more universally relevant while its U.S. Hispanic ad promotes a trip to the World Cup Final made more memorable to Hispanics by showing the tension between the soccer loyalties of a Mexican-born dad and his U.S.-born son.