With the World Cup upon us and advertisers blowing their vuvuzela horns, I've lately seen two World Cup ad campaigns that toy with the idea that most Americans don’t get soccer. Kia's sponsorship ads featuring Adriana Lima is one of them. The other is by none other than Hooters, the sports bar and breast enhancement showcase.
The latter's campaign stars NFL coach/ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, and probably the most famous athlete of our, or any, era. Not Muhammed Ali, but Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, icon of Major League Eating, where the World Cup is at Nathan's Famous at Coney Island. I have no idea what their conversation involves in that Hooter's ad because the audio didn't seem to work for me, but I wager it’s a "futbol not football" message: like Adriana Lima in the Kia ads, a bartender "futbol," and there's a look of chagrin on the guys' faces.
While Kia's ads have Lima seductively broadening the consciousness of NFL and MLB fans, the conceit is that middle America — man caves, bars, a high school football field — couldn't give a pair of old cleats for that round inflatable kickball. It's a "Green Eggs and Ham" theme: try it, you'll like it. Really.
But Sam-I-am, comely or otherwise, won’t be needed here for long. First, there’s the demographic situation. Hispanics favor soccer, and they are going to be the majority demo in the not-too-distant future. The last Census showed there are over 50 million Hispanics in the United States, just over 16% of the population. That's 43% growth in a decade. Soccer, futbol, whatever, will be the number one sport in the U.S. before 2040, since Hispanics alone will be over 50% of the population by then, and the sport is growing in popularity with everyone else, too.
Second reason: football costs big money and junior high, high and even colleges don't have as much of it. Yes, the low-hanging fruit for program cuts in this country is culture — you know, musical instruments and such — but even football, upon which we all rely, is seeing an evaporation because of the price all those pads, tiers of coaches and whatnot. Oh, forgot to mention concussions, heat stroke from layers of pads and helmets during July practice (happened in my school, but that was in Florida). And other injuries. Soccer has injuries, but the primary strategy of that sport isn’t ramming people and ripping them apart. Soccer? You need a ball and some shorts. Okay, some kneepads. And coaches, but not, like, eight of them.
Third reason: just my opinion but football, baseball and basketball fans watch on TV, though those leagues have been working hard to shift things to digital. And ads support the broadcasts and, therefore, the teams and players. But one would think that as people (especially young people) move away from TV and marketing follows them into media that is more efficient and offers better ROI, what does that do to the value of TV advertising? Advertisers might not want to pay so much if they can buy a growing sport whose adherents are more digitally inclined.
According to Experian Marketing Services, which has a new report based on a rolling survey of 25,000 U.S. adults, soccer fans are 31% more likely than the average consumer to watch online video across multiple devices. Sixty-four percent of soccer fans watch online video during a typical week, compared with 49% of all adults.
Soccer fans are also 60% more likely to use their phones to keep up with sports; 65% more likely to stream video from a work computer; 20% more likely to multitask while watching TV; 37% more likely to use a digital tablet and 60% more likely to use sports apps on their phone during a typical week. Bill Tancer, general manager, global research at Experian Marketing Services, said this: “This is a digitally and technologically savvy audience that doesn’t care how they watch their favorite programs, just as long as they are able to watch them."
Advertisers, take note. Experian says they have an affinity for upscale stores like Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Brooks Brothers, Nordstrom and Saks. They also shop at athletic stores like REI, Foot Locker, Modell’s and Nike and electronics stores like Apple. Now, excuse me while I watch Joey Chestnut eat Hooters wings on my iPhone.