International Cup Challenge A World Cup Test For U.S. Marketers, Fans, Media

Fans and brands feeling down after the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup and seeing the hosting of the 2026 event as too far in the future have a respite in the International Champions Cup presented by Heineken.

This 2018 event, which includes 27 matches across the United States (as well as Europe and Singapore), began this past weekend (July 20) and is scheduled to run though Aug. 11.

The roster features some of the best, and most lucrative, clubs in the world: Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Roma, Juventus, Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica. 

In addition to Heineken, sponsors include MasterCard International, Ally Financial, Gatorade, Hertz, McDonald’s, Hennessy, Konami Digital Entertainment, XYience Energy Drink, Rakuten, Nexen Tire, and Avocados from Mexico.

Running concurrently is the Women's International Champions Cup, which includes teams from Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and the North Carolina Courage of the NWSL.



The tournament comes as soccer participation in the U.S. has hit a lull, with the number of 6-12-year-old kids playing the sport down 14% to 2.3 million, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, Silver Spring, Md.

Overall, there are 11.9 million participants in outdoor soccer in the United States, behind basketball (23.4 million) and baseball (15.6 million), according to SFIA.

Marketing for the men’s International Champions Cup is anchored by a TV spot, “Champions Meet Here,” that features a bevy of soccer stars and athletes from other sports, each touting games in their city.

The full 2:30 spot includes Victor Cruz, Draymond Green, Matt Bahr, Josh Norman, Zlatan Ibrahimovi, Kawann Short, Brandon Graham, Jim Harbaugh, Paolo Maldini, Alana Blanchard and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Shorter versions will run in each respective city. The campaign also includes print, internet, social media and local activation.

ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio, ESPNU and ESPNEWS will combine to cover the full tournament.

ESPN2 and the ESPN App (in Spanish) will also televise the Women’s International Champions Cup Final in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium (July 29). 

U.S.-based venues include a number of stadiums in the running to host World Cup games in 2026, including MetLife Stadium New York/New Jersey, Hard Rock Stadium Miami, Levi’s Stadium San Francisco Bay Area, Rose Bowl Los Angeles, FedEx Field Washington D.C., Soldier Field Chicago, Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, U.S. Bank Stadium Minneapolis, Heinz Field Pittsburgh, AT&T Stadium Dallas and Lincoln Financial Field Philadelphia.

Hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup (along with Canada and Mexico) could generate more than $5 billion in short-term economic activity, including supporting approximately 40,000 jobs and more than $1 billion in incremental worker earnings across North America, according to a study done by The Boston Consulting Group for U.S. Soccer.

Sponsorship spending on Major League Soccer, U.S. Soccer and other North American soccer leagues, teams and events hit a record $347 million in 2017, a 4.1% increase from the $333 million spend in 2016 and up from $302.4 million in 2015, according to research and consulting firm ESP Properties, Chicago.

The value of MLS and its clubs has hit a record $4.46 billion, according to Forbes.

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