After becoming the official beer sponsor for MLS, Heineken announced individual sponsorship deals with seven MLS teams: DC United, Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo, Orlando City SC, New York Red Bulls and New York City FC.
Heineken has made significant investments on a global scale to become the beer brand synonymous with soccer, and the latest round of deals hope to use soccer as a vehicle to fuel consumer preferences. While other global brands differentiate their sports sponsorship strategies in the United States by targeting the NFL, NBA or MLB, Heineken is choosing to stay with soccer, perhaps based on the success of its UEFA Champions League sponsorship.
Heineken has been an UEFA Champions League official sponsor, and recently extended its sponsorship through the 2017-2018 season giving Heineken rights to UEFA content across online and TV channels. Heineken’s #ShareTheSofa campaign for the 2014 tournament resulted in increased brand awareness and purchase consideration for Heineken. This time, however, Heineken will now have to develop local activation strategies for each of its seven teams.
Heineken’s sponsorship deals could signal that MLS clubs will be targeted by other international brands. With the popularity of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the aggressive expansion of MLS, sponsors may want to capitalize on US soccer now. Major challenges arise for other brands that must ensure that in-game activations, logo placement and signage convey their brands to US consumers.