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Home | News | Marketing | Heineken to sponsor MLS

Heineken to sponsor MLS

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Game on: American soccer fans favour import beers

Reported £50 million package starts in 2015

Heineken has signed a five-year sponsorship deal to become the official beer of America’s Major League Soccer, taking over from Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Budweiser in January next year.

Heineken will pay more than $3 million per year for the exclusive sponsorship rights to MLS content, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The deal is worth more than $50m in total, including media and marketing commitments, the report said. However, both Heineken and the MLS have refused to disclose the financial terms of the deal.

Under the terms of the deal, Heineken’s advertising and marketing will be used during nationally broadcast matches, digitally, and at point-of-sale.

It marks Heineken’s first foray into national sports sponsorship in the US and adds to its sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League in Europe, which it has held since 2005.

Heineken is looking to broaden its appeal in the United States after sales dipped 3.8% between 2008 and 2013, according to data analysts Euromonitor International.

Heineken USA’s chief marketing officer Nuno Teles said that research by MLS has found that soccer fans are 50% more likely to drink imports than other sports fans, giving it a strong advantage as the leading European beer importer to the US.

He said, “We’ve been looking for a national engagement platform for the US consumer linked to our heritage. (MLS is) the perfect match of what the brand stands for as a European import.”

The WSJ reported that Budweiser had paid approximately $3.5m annually for rights to the MLS and the American and Mexican national soccer teams. (ABI has refused to confirm financial details.)

The paper said that both ABI and MillerCoors were in talks with MLS concerning sponsorship rights to the US and Mexico teams, with a deal expected to be signed before the end of this year.

Mike Sundet, ABI’s vice president of sports and entertainment marketing, said the company would continue to actively support US soccer through individual team sponsorships. Anheuser-Busch had partnered with MLS since 1996.

“We remain committed to soccer in the US and beyond with active partnerships that embed our brands in passionate fan bases,” he said. “Additionally, we’re excited about key partnerships with US Soccer and the Mexican national team – which allow us to engage with fans across the country and continent.”

MLS president and managing director of MLS Business Ventures Gary Stevenson said, “We are excited to welcome Heineken on board as we approach the League’s 20th season. Heineken is a supporter of soccer globally and is a great fit for what’s next for Major League Soccer.”

MLS is increasingly big business in the US, with plans to add new two franchises in 2015, a second franchise in New York and in Orlando, Florida. It has also signed three new broadcast agreements with ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision.

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