Whether they call it soccer, football or futbol, millions of fans of the world's most popular sport will reach their quadrennial frenzy when the FIFA World Cup kicks off next month.
And automakers won't be sitting on the bench. Hyundai and Volks-wagen plan advertising blitzes during the tournament to launch new vehicles.
The brands are targeting more than just soccer fans. They want to make inroads with Hispanics, a crucial, fast-growing portion of the U.S. auto market.
Steve Shannon, vice president of marketing for Hyundai Motor America, says the brand has committed to its largest-ever Spanish-language national TV buy as part of the launch campaign for the re-engineered 2015 Sonata mid-sized sedan. Meanwhile, VW hopes to elbow its way in with commercials for its GTI performance hatchback.
VW plans to run multiple TV spots during English- and Spanish-language broadcasts of World Cup matches throughout the tournament on ESPN and the Spanish-language network Univision, a VW spokeswoman said.
The key targets are the large numbers of Hispanic and young male viewers -- both key groups for GTI sales -- who tune in to World Cup matches. "There's a great alignment there" between the World Cup audience and the GTI's core market, said Vinay Shahani, Volks-wagen of America's vice president of marketing.
Even though American audiences prefer their football with helmets and tackling, the World Cup attracts a Super Bowl-sized TV audience in the United States over its monthlong run. More than 110 million U.S. viewers watched at least six minutes of live World Cup coverage during the 2010 tournament, according to the Nielsen Co. Moreover, Nielsen estimates English- and Spanish-language World Cup match broadcasts reached more than a third of all U.S. TV viewers in 2010.
Many of those viewers stay glued to the action. Whether it's about passion for country or for players such as the lightning-quick Argentine Leo Messi, Nielsen says live coverage of World Cup matches attracts large numbers of the extremely engaged viewers that marketers covet in the age of the digital video recorder.
'They go crazy'
Shannon says Hyundai's campaign for the Sonata will play off that enthusiasm by celebrating "fan passion" for the sport, rather than individual players or teams.
"Americans have a reasonable enthusiasm for soccer year in and year out, but every four years when World Cup time comes, they go crazy," Shannon said. "It's a time when people are incredibly passionate about their team and their country."
Hyundai also has regional extensions of the Sonata campaign planned in at least 12 U.S. markets with large Hispanic populations, including Miami, Los Angeles, New York and San Diego, Shannon said. That move looks savvy because Miami, New York and San Diego were three of the five local markets where the World Cup drew its highest local ratings, while Miami and Los Angeles were the two highest-rated markets for Spanish-language match broadcasts, according to Nielsen.
Hyundai has been FIFA's official automotive sponsor since 2002. Commercials on Univision account for about a third of Hyundai's national TV commercial commitment for the campaign, said Shannon, who declined to disclose spending specifics.
"This is the biggest Hispanic media commitment we've ever made," Shannon said. "This is a really big step for us."
|The brands that generate the highest proportion of their sales from ethnic minorities include value, mainstream and luxury brands. The top 10:|
|Brand||Share||11: Average age difference between Hispanic new-car buyers, who skew younger, and non-Hispanic buyers|
|Mercedes-Benz||28%||$39 BILLION: Amount spent on new vehicles by Hispanics in the United States last year|
|All U.S. consumers||African-Americans|
|1. Toyota||13.80%||1. Toyota||13.40%|
|2. Ford||12.50%||2. Chevrolet||11.60%|
|3. Honda||10.80%||3. Ford||11.20%|
|4. Chevrolet||10.40%||4. Nissan||10.50%|
|5. Nissan||7.30%||5. Honda||9.60%|
|2013 sales growth:||+9%||2013 sales growth:||+12|
|U.S. Asians||U.S. Hispanics|
|1. Toyota||24.50%||1. Toyota||17.70%|
|2. Honda||18.70%||2. Honda||12.30%|
|3. Nissan||6.60%||3. Nissan||11.80%|
|4. BMW||5.20%||4. Chevrolet||9.30%|
|5. Mercedes-Benz||4.90%||5. Ford||9.10%|
|2013 sales growth:||+13%||2013 sales growth:||+17%|
The campaigns and their World Cup ties reflect automakers' increasing efforts to reach U.S. Hispanics, a demographic group that encompasses 56 million people and drove vehicle registration growth at nearly twice the rate of the overall population last year. U.S. vehicle registrations to Hispanics grew 17 percent last year, nearly double the overall market's 9 percent gain, according to IHS Automotive.
Joint research by marketing analytics firm GFK and Univision shows the bulk of the U.S. population growth in the key car-buying age group of 18- to 49-year-olds will come from Hispanics. The population of Hispanics in that age group is expected to grow by 5 million during the next five years compared with growth of just 300,000 for non-Hispanics, according to the GFK-Univision research.
Marketers seeking to reach those buyers are stepping up their spending. Automakers and regional dealer associations spent more than $600 million on national and regional Spanish-language TV commercials last year, compared with $363 million in 2010.
"In terms of marketing to Hispanics by automakers, it has really stepped up in the last four years since the downturn," said Jack Randall, senior vice president of business development for Univision Communications.
Randall says Hispanics are entering key life stages that are often triggers for new-car purchases -- such as entering the new-car market for the first time, getting married or preparing for their first or second child -- more frequently than non-Hispanics.
Big brands dominate
Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Chevrolet and Ford have the largest presence among Hispanic consumers, accounting for a combined 60 percent of new vehicles sold last year to Hispanics in the United States, according to IHS. Randall says those brands have succeeded in part because they've had a consistent Hispanic marketing presence for decades.
Other brands, including Hyundai, Kia, Dodge, VW and Jeep, all of which have Hispanic market shares of 5 percent or less, have recently stepped up their marketing efforts, Randall says.
The opportunity for those brands to grab share from bigger rivals may be great. According to the GFK-Univision research, Hispanics show less intended brand loyalty than non-Hispanics, meaning they may be more likely to consider a brand other than their initial choice.
Randall said: "The ability for a smaller brand or emerging brand to say 'I'm going to commit to this' and see growth for a few specific models or their whole portfolio is very, very real."