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Sponsors Put Best Foot Forward With Univision

Related: Big Ten Deal May Be Too Big

The Spanish-language broadcast of the Copa America soccer tournament on Univision was so popular with sponsors that more than a dozen of them aired spots specially created to air during the three-week event, which concluded June 26.

That kind of treatment is usually reserved for the Super Bowl, the Oscars or at least the World Cup. But the sponsor activity is a sign that soccer is on its way to becoming a big-time TV property that advertisers have to invest in.

For example, Sprint aired an ad featuring former player David Beckham and using the Copa America tournament logo (official sponsors get to use marks and other intellectual property); Coke’s ads showed fans partying while watching soccer; and Southwest showed fans with their faces painted to show which countries they were rooting for.

Also running bespoke ads were Ford (an official Copa sponsor) and non-official sponsors Allstate, AT&T, Toyota, X-Ray, Miller Brewing, DirecTV, PowerAde, State Farm and Nissan.

“This is a very real expression of how advertisers are recognizing that soccer is here,” said Carlos Deschapelles, executive VP, sports and multimedia sales for Univision. Between the 2010 World Cup and the U.S. women’s national team’s World Cup victory last year, soccer has gone mainstream. More networks are airing more live matches than ever before.

And sponsors are coming aboard because they all want to reach the younger, multicultural generation. “Advertisers want to go after the millennials. They want this young, vibrant audience, and [soccer] is exactly where you get them,” Deschapelles said.

Because of the controversy involving FIFA, the scandal-ridden body that rules international soccer, official sponsors of Copa America weren’t signed until December, making the production of fresh advertising even more remarkable, according to Deschapelles. “It’s certainly been sort of like a novela,” he said.

Deschapelles said he spent nearly two years talking to advertisers and agencies about this tournament, featuring teams from the Americas, telling them it would be bigger in the U.S. than the World Cup. Sponsors bought the pitch, and the tournament delivered.

Univision’s ratings estimates for Copa America were set above the levels for the last World Cup—and the matches generated that kind of viewing.

It has also been delivering for Univision. It’s hard to make direct financial comparisons between the World Cup and Copa America because the World Cup features 32 teams and 64 games, while the Copa has 16 teams and 32 games. Nonetheless, Deschapelles said that in terms of pure dollar volume, Copa America was the second-largest revenue-producing sports event Univision has ever run.

Deschapelles declined to provide specific figures, but research company iSpot.TV estimates that from June 1-June 21, Univision generated $15.6 million in ad revenue from Copa America, including $2 million on Univision Deportes. (Because soccer doesn’t have commercials during games, there is a lot of revenue from integrations and sponsorship elements that are hard to calculate.)

At presstime, all spots in the final and third-place games had sold out, although one or two units in each game could still be had for the right price, Deschapelles said. And while two of the most popular teams for Univision viewers—the U.S. and Mexico—didn’t make the tournament final, their absence was not expected to have a material effect on viewership.

“The Hispanic market in the U.S. had an interest in almost all of the 16 teams. That’s why we loved this thing from the very beginning,” Deschapelles said.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.