Clarification: This article was originally published on December 18, 2020 with the headline “Will Heineken sponsor local soccer? A review of the relationship between brewers and Peruvian soccer.”
Football and beer have a long-standing relationship that goes far beyond taking it by watching a game of soccer in a bar or at home. A quasi-romance that is perceived just by reviewing the main leagues in the world, where at least one great beer brand appears sponsoring the teams. And, of course, they are also very present in international tournaments. Just look at the Argentine league and the selection of the same country with Quilmes, Budweiser as sponsor of the Spanish La Liga in 2019 and with three brands (Mahou-San Miguel, Damm and Heineken), distributing 18 of the 20 sponsorships of the tournament -according to the newspaper Expansión- or Budweiser as one of the main sponsors in the last World Cups.
Heineken, the beer giant that has just entered the Peruvian market- after buying Three crosses– also passionately believes in this binomial. The beer group not only arrives with the promise of revolutionizing the beer industry with its strategy and new brands, it also has powerful sponsorships for world-class events such as UEFA, the Champions League, Copa Libertadores (with the Amstel brand), among others. And in Latin America, according to the Ecuadorian media El Futbolero, Heineken (which entered that country last year) would be trying to enter the Ecuadorian league with force after “an interesting offer to one of the great teams of Ecuador,” indicates the media sports. Are you interested in sponsoring the Liga1 or to the Peruvian team?
Leandro Berrone, director of Heineken Peru, comments to Day 1 that it is still a bit early to share a decision, given that they are in an exploratory stage. That is, they are at this moment looking and listening to these possibilities to define it.
“This is a sector [cervezas] historically associated with soccer, with very powerful values of emotional connection. And we have a lot of experience in sports sponsorship, in particular I have had to participate in the negotiation of several large events, so let’s look at it carefully.”, He maintains.
Eduardo Flores, CEO of the sports marketing agency Toque Fino, reaffirms that soccer has been the ideal partner for the beer industry for years. Definitely, he explains, having football as a means of exposure is quite attractive in the Peruvian market. “Soccer is the most popular sport in the country, you move masses and it has a very active population. It is a transversal sport that allows reaching all socioeconomic strata ”, he says.
Beer companies and Peruvian football
The relationship between beer and Peruvian soccer It is not new either, but it has been transformed over the years.
But 2014 was the last year that these three teams had a product from the Backus brewery as their main sponsor. And three years later In 2017, the Cristal brand abandoned the shirt of the compadres to only be with Sporting Cristal, still a club of the beer group that has more than 95% of ‘market share’ in the country.
At that time, as indicated in this note– prepared by journalist Abraham Taipe-, the marketing manager of the Lima Alliance, Iván Huerta, told El Comercio that Backus showed no interest in renewing the link and that is why they began to negotiate with other brands.
The situation with the cream club gradually disintegrated. In 2016, Backus cut his investment and his logo went from chest to back. To finally get away from Ate in 2017.
Three years later and just when Heineken enters announcing an extremely aggressive strategy to confront Backus, the brewery announces its return as a sponsor of the cream club. He announced it a few hours before the final of Liga1 between the meringues and Sporting Cristal, through their social networks. At the same time, he announced that he will continue as sponsor of the rimenses. Always with the Cristal brand.
In addition, just starting this 2021, Backus takes another blow and has just announced that will once again sponsor Alianza Lima, at a difficult time for the club. Not only did they suffer relegation to League 2 after a bad campaign last year, but they also face an unstable situation at the leadership level. The details of the agreement are not yet known, but it is speculated that the amount is less than what it would be in the first division tournament.
But, Why did you walk away from the local tournament three years ago? We will answer it throughout this note, but one aspect to take into account is that at the end of 2015, the Sab Miller company, owner of Backus in Peru until that year, was acquired by its competitor AB InBev globally. An acquisition that changed everything, since the investment decisions after a move of that magnitude, obviously, were not going to be as before. The culture, the organizational structure, among other aspects have changed since then to be in accordance with the new strategy.
With no other brewery with the budget, power and sports sponsorship expertise quite like AB InBev’s Backus, the category dropped the sponsorship of local tournament teams in 2017.
Backus’ farewell to Sporting Cristal
The history with Sporting Cristal was a totally separate game. The Rímac club, since 2012, had started a project in search of its self-sustainability, so that the annual budget does not depend exclusively on the investment of Backus, its then owner. A goal that they finally achieved in 2018, according to Carlos Benavides, their general manager at that time, to a local media.
What happened next is known, after denying many times that there were sales intentions, in September of last year Backus finally got rid of Sporting Cristal, selling 100% of the club’s shares to the Innova Sports group.
Many fans were surprised by the sale, but it was not so far fetched. There was an additional aspect in the specific case of Sporting Cristal and that is that when AB InBev bought SAB Miller, it has not only absorbed the broad beer portfolio of Backus in Peru, it also received a mix of non-alcoholic beverage brands and inherited the Sporting Cristal sports club.
As noted by José Carlos Lumbreras, development manager of Peru Top Publications, in this note-before the sale of the club-, the holding company always prioritizes the profitability of its businesses and could sell those that do not comply with its plans. And having a sports club could make a difference to your bottom line.
One only had to look at what happened when AB InBev acquired Grupo Modelo (Mexico), which had the Santos Laguna team in its ranks. Shortly after the Modelo group was taken over by AB InBev in 2013 the brewery ended up selling the team and its respective assets (stadium and sports facilities). The decision, they explained at the time, was to focus on the business of beers.
And the sponsorship of the local tournament?
With that background, the sale was a predictable move. But perhaps it was not expected that the group has not returned to sponsor local football with one of its beer brands. Except for still being on Sporting Cristal’s chest. Although the holding company does have sports sponsorship bets in other countries and here in Peru it maintains sponsorship of the Peruvian team with the Cristal brand, the same did not happen with other teams in Liga1.
At that time, some specialists such as Raúl Rosales, an expert in football and business, indicated that the purchase of SAB Miller by AB InBev had a lot to do with this change in Backus. But in particular for one point: both merged companies have almost the entire beer market in Peru, so they would not need to make millionaire investments to attract new consumers.
“When Brahma (AB InBev) arrived a decade ago there was a beer war that included strong sponsorships in soccer teams, but now this situation will no longer occur,” said Rosales referring to the years in which AB InBev entered with Brahma as a workhorse to measure himself against the might of Backus. Eventually, it failed and was absorbed by its global matrix.
To date, Backus has a contract with the Peruvian Football Federation (FPF) until 2022, an agreement that was extended in 2018, when Peru was very close to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which finally happened after 36 laps years. Now he will accompany the red-white during all the qualifying rounds towards Qatar 2022.
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