The rising popularity of European soccer in the U.S. is a very good thing for beer brands. Because the early match times mean more daytime drinking at bars. Kegs and eggs anyone?
Now Heineken is trying to lure more soccer fans to pubs via a new partnership with Google. The program, which is part of Heineken's broader "Soccer Is Here" campaign, involves a mobile website that allows fans to find out which bars are showing matches featuring their favorite teams. For now, the program is only available in New York City. But Heineken USA will consider expanding the program to other cities if it proves popular, said Heineken brand manager Rob Ryder.
Fans entering "soccerishere.com" into their mobile internet browser will see a map of New York City with participating bars highlighted showing featured matches. Fans can search by league, match or venue. The program includes matches from the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League, the Spanish league La Liga, as well as Major League Soccer games in the U.S.
Heineken has identified nearly 200 soccer bars in New York City and the brand is halfway toward its goal of signing them all up with the program, Mr. Ryder said. Participating bars must enter the matches they are showing into an interface that populates the fan site. The site was built using the Google Maps API and powered by Google's local guides, places and search functions, according to a Heineken statement. Heineken will support the initiative with a substantial digital media buy using geo-targeted search, display and video ads, said Betsy Paynter, digital media manager for Heineken USA.
The program is an example of how brands are increasingly using their marketing to provide services to consumers, rather than just awareness advertising, which is increasingly difficult in an era of ad blockers and ad skipping.
"We were looking at how we can help soccer fans really enjoy the sport in the company of their friends and also in the time-honored tradition of being in a bar," Mr. Ryder said. He has a personal need for it. When he came to the U.S. from the U.K. he tried to catch his favorite team, the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. But "I was having difficulty identifying where do I go to watch the matches" he said.
The program comes as Heineken continues to invest more in soccer as the sport's popularity surges in the states. In January of 2015, Heineken began a multi-year deal sponsorship deal with Major League Soccer, adding to a soccer portfolio that already included a Champions League sponsorship. In March of this year, Heineken launched the year-long "Soccer Is Here" campaign by Publicis, New York. Ads feature soccer stars David Villa, Carli Lloyd and Landon Donovan. Ms. Lloyd is the first female athlete to be a spokeswoman for a beer brand, according to Heineken. Heineken also plans to partner with the Daily Mail for a contest in which fans can vote for the best soccer bar in New York City.
This story also appeared on Adage.com.