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AB InBev taps US soccer fandom

News, 27 January 2016

NEW YORK: Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewing group, believes that many brands could benefit from tapping into soccer's growing popularity in the US.

Christopher Perkins, Global Head of Sport at ‎Anheuser-Busch InBev, discussed this subject at Advertising Week 2015 in New York.

There are now over 70m soccer fans across America, up from 48m in 2006 – and Perkins argued that the "explosion of football fandom" in the country was one of the main takeaways from the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

He further suggested that this interest in the sport is unusual compared with most other nations as it is mainly tied into "hipsterism", and thus offers distinctive opportunities for marketers versus the NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA.

"We think football provides millennial fans here in the US something that the traditional four three-letter codes don't provide," said Perkins. (For more, including details of how the brand has tapped into this opportunity, read Warc's exclusive report: Anheuser-Busch InBev tackles soccer sponsorship in the US.)

"And that's cosmopolitanism; a worldliness that the other ones don't have. So it's really interesting for us as we try and reinvent some of our biggest brands."

Continuing on this theme, the way that many young people originally became fans is through playing video games in the FIFA soccer franchise produced by Electronic Arts (EA) for PCs and consoles.

"So we know that EA's FIFA is a number-one recruitment tool for the sport here in the US," he said. "It's been traditionally closed to the beer category, but there are some interesting trends where we can 'age-gate' " content and ensure consumers are over legal drinking age.

"The growth of online gaming is huge. So we think that property is probably worth maybe more than anyone realises to people activating around this sport."

When people do attend Major League Soccer (MLS) games, they often "borrow" traditions from fans elsewhere in the world – meaning brands have a chance to help them develop new habits, too.

"The culture of ... soccer here in the US is still growing and learning," said Perkins. "So we think there's a way to get involved at the very base level in football culture here in the US and maybe have a role to play."

Data sourced from Warc