As MediaPost's Tanya Gazdik (top left) put it, "Sports has taken on a whole new meaning, what little there is. We're starved for entertainment."
So there was some excitement generated at Wednesday's Marketing:Automotive conference via Zoom where Gazdik had gathered Shawna Burtscher (bottom left), Head of Experiential Marketing at Audi, and Sana Shuaib (top right), Vice President, Partnership Marketing for Major League Soccer.
Shuaib oozed appreciation for Audi's strong partnership, calling the brand "a game changer in the industry." She noted Audi's desire to make a long-lasting impact not he game, which it is doing by advancing youth soccer talent and fueling the sport's growth in North America.
For its part, Burtscher said the automaker started off six years ago by looking for innovative things that align with the brand and found authenticity and legitimacy in the sport of soccer. "It is a real opportunity for a like-minded brand with its young-in-years fan base," she said. "It has allowed us to find great common ground."
The company created the Audi Performance Index, bringing a new statistic to a game that hasn't got a lot of them. "The players loved it," Burtscher said. Just in the last two years, Audi has pivoted to become fully dedicated in the U.S. And last year, at the All-Star Game, it launched the Audi Goals Drive Progress.
That program brings in new talent and breaks down barriers to entry such as transportation, housing and education. For every goal scored, Audi donates $5,000 to the MLS Academy. Last month, Audi launched a new TV spot that takes viewers behind the scenes to see what sacrifices entail for players as young as 12.
Next week, Audi is launching a new content series at the Bleacher Report on what it means to be an academy player, training over Zoom and living with host families. The five-part series will roll out monthly. Burtscher called it "HBO 'Hard Knocks' style."