October 22, 2014
By Bruce Horovitz
Cheetos, the multibillion-dollar cheese snack brand, is about to add an unlikely twist: its own soccer team.
Make that two soccer teams.
No, these aren't existing pro soccer teams that Cheetos is simply going to sponsor. These are the brand's own soccer teams.
The neon-orange snack, which has an enormous Hispanic customer base, has assembled the teams from soccer players who specialize in cool, soccer "tricks." The teams will perform and play in real soccer games.
Think of the team, Los Cheetahs, as the Harlem Globetrotters of snack food.
And think of the team they'll play, Los Jefes (The Bosses), as the companion Washington Generals who always get pummeled by the Globetrotters in their shows.
The first of the games is scheduled to take place Nov. 8 at the beach — in a pop-up stadium.
Frito-Lay, which owns Cheetos, will bring in heavy construction equipment to level the sand and roll out a temporary artificial turf soccer field at Alamitos Beach in Long Beach. The field is 80 yards long by 45 yards wide, making it smaller than a Major League Soccer or World Cup field. When the game is over, the beach will be returned to normal.
The goal is to reach Hispanic consumers and to nudge them to tweet, post or buzz via social media about the unusual promotion. The nation's 54 million Hispanic consumers purchase 50% more Cheetos per capita than general market consumers, reports the research firm Information Resources. And the Cheetos brand hopes that if it creates a soccer stadium in the sand — albeit a temporary one — they will come.
"There's nothing like this out in the marketplace that any brand has done before," says Ram Krishnan, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Frito-Lay.
In a social media age, even the biggest brands increasingly have to reach for new ways to coax customers to interact with them. For Cheetos, it's all about concocting a reason and a way for its best customers to personally engage with the brand. The games are free, but they require those who want grandstand seats to register ahead of time on the Cheetos website.
The game will be one hour. And, yes, trouble-making brand mascot Chester Cheetah will be there — pulling consumers into the action.
While the interactive promotion could have wide appeal to families, one Hispanic research specialist says that the Cheetos brand needs to be careful. "Soccer is something that many Latinos take extremely seriously," says Ricardo Lopez, president of Hispanic Research. "This is more of an entertainment show that has little to do with real soccer."
Also, Lopez notes, "not all Latinos love soccer."
But, increasingly, mainstream Americans do. Between the 2010 and 2014 World Cup championships, the number of Americans who watched, attended or listened to a major soccer matched increased by 32%, reports Nielsen.
If the promotion is a hit, the two teams will play in other parts of the country, says Krishnan.
"We want to turn consumers into advocates for the brand," says Krishnan. "That's advertising money can't buy."
For those wondering, no, the field won't be colored neon-orange.
Source: USA Today