What: Wells Fargo's campaign featuring Landon Donovan supporting Team Mexico in the World Cup has gained some attention amid some "controversy" regarding the spots.
Why it matters: Marketers can use the window of Mexicos success and popularity with an American figure who can transcend cultures and casual fans to draw needed awareness here.
Make no mistake about it, Mexico is Americas Team, or at least the Team of the Americas, for the World Cup (). El Tris () success was further cemented over the weekend by a 1-0 first match win over Germany in Group play, and the ongoing drama from Rafa Marquez and his off field involvement or lack of involvement with unsavory business dealings, and now the “controversy” over Landon Donovan supporting Mexico as they make their run.
All of that casual spin, drama and success makes for great opportunities for Mexico as the worlds largest sporting event unfolds in Russia in the coming weeks, and is great news for the first adopter brands who have come on board (with the help of Soccer United Marketing who represents them and the U.S. mens National team and other properties in the game) looking to grow their demo with not just the Latino fanbase, but the casual soccer fan and the World Cup viewer.
Some of those brands, like AT&T (), Allstate () and Home Depot (), have used partnerships to grow affinity in key markets where the Mexican following is established in the U.S., like Texas and California, while others have looked to try and reach an even larger market as the World Cup begins, pushing the theme that Mexico is in effect, the club the U.S. fan base could and should be rooting for.
The question is, will other brands already engaged now find a way to ride the Mexican wave, not just with the National team but with Liga MX?
That push by Wells Fargo () (see below), also a sponsor of the U.S. Mens National Team, drew a great deal of fire over the weekend, as the campaign included American legend Donovan using the social space to push the following of El Tri, something which some soccer loyalists saw as blasphemous.
Really? Given the fact that Donovan is of Mexican heritage, grew up outside of LA in a mixed Latino neighborhood, and played in Liga MX last year, it actually seems like a great play and great timing for Wells Fargo, who has Donovan on their team as a paid endorser as well. Add in that the joint bid for World Cup 2026 was now set and the fact that the USMNT was NOT in the field, there is great validity to use the window of Mexicos success and popularity with an American figure who can transcend cultures and casual fans to draw awareness for a sport that needs to grow.
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For Wells Fargo the buzz in the social space probably got them more exposure than was even expected, and given the spotlight that will now be on Mexico in the coming weeks, thats a good thing. The question is, will other brands already engaged now find a way to ride the Mexican wave, not just with the National team but with Liga MX (), which is already the most watched professional league in the United States for soccer?
“The interest in World Cup, even without the U.S. being in this time, is still huge, and it will continue to grow in the next few weeks, so the brands that found their way in and are ready to activate even more, will do well,” said Chris Lencheski, veteran sports marketer now at M.P & Silva (), and professor at Columbia University. “This type of controversy is good for all, and if I am a company that has invested and can activate locally, especially in those markets where you know there is a solid following already, the time to strike is now.”
For their part, both Donovan and Wells Fargo did a good job of diffusing the controversy on his participation through his social following. Whether fans continue to see this as some sort of sellout by an American asking for fans to support a rival is really trivial, as Mexicos success will undoubtedly bring more casual eyeballs than complainers, and frankly, the casual American soccer fan needs someone to root for, so why not Mexico?
As we sit in the midst of group play, Mexicos brand value may never be brighter for soccer marketers, buffeted by World Cup early success and welcome news for the future, and the well-placed buzz by a participating brand with an established star that caused some fun disruption in the marketplace.
Will other partners now look to push the opportunity even more? There is a solid lineup in place, we will watch and see who scores.
— Wells Fargo (@WellsFargo) June 15, 2018
Joe Favorito @joefav
Joe Favorito has over 32 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. The Brooklyn, New York native has managed the day-to- day activities in strategic communications for: Two of the worlds hallmark sports and entertainment brands (the New York Knickerbockers and Philadelphia 76ers), the worlds largest professional sport for women (the WTA Tour), the worlds largest sports National Governing Body (the United States Tennis Association) and the worlds largest annual sporting event (the US Open). He also oversaw the strategic planning, investor relations, communications and digital business development of the International Fight League during its two year run as a Mixed Martial Arts venture and a publicly traded company. Favorito serves on the boards of the Weinstein Carnegie Group, New York Sports Venture Capital, the National Sports Marketing Network, the Drexel University Sports Business program, and Columbia Universitys Sports Management program (where he is an instructor in Strategic Communications and Director of Industry Relations). Joe also maintains a well trafficked blog on the sports marketing and publicity field, “Sports Marketing and PR Roundup,” on the website joefavorito.com, as well authoring the first- ever text on the sports publicity industry (“Sports Publicity” published in August 2007 by Reed Elsevier and updated in 2012 by Taylor Publishing with a third printing coming in 2018), which is used in over 60 sports management programs in the U.S. He has been a guest speaker on sports marketing, social media and communications at a host of institutions, including Princeton University, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, the University of Florida Law School, New York University, the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and many others. He is also a frequent spokesperson on the industry for publications ranging from Ad Age and The New York Times to NPR and CBS News. A graduate of Fordham University, Joe, his wife and two children reside in River Vale, New Jersey.