Univision's 'Copa' Is More Than Half-Full

Broadcast giant is growing its popular summer soccer tourney from local to national level in advance of next year’s World Cup

mmalone@nbmedia.com | @BCMikeMalone

The World Cup is 11 months away, but Univision is stoking its viewers’
considerable passion for fútbol with a rapidly growing summer tournament whose not-so-long-term goal is a national footprint.
The amateur soccer-palooza, called Copa
Univision—with 5-on-5 teams on up to 8-on-
8, featuring children as young as 5 to grownups—
expands to 12 markets this year, and
will go to 15 in 2014. “There’s no question we
are taking the power of television and radio
stations and a TV network and combining that
with the passion our viewers have for soccer,”
says Kevin Cuddihy, president of Univision Television
Group. “And we’re excited about the continued expansion,
which lends itself to national clients.”

Why This Matters
The Hispanic community adores fútbol, and Copa Univision gives them lots of it-with the Univision brand all over the local soccer tourneys.

The Copa Univision (“copa” of course means “cup”)
numbers tell much of the story. An estimated 1,300
teams, 12,000 players and 250,000 attendees will be
part of the competition this year. The two-day tournaments
kicked off in Phoenix in late April, moved to Miami,
then Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Francisco, the
latter this past weekend. Coming up in August and September:
Los Angeles, New York, San Antonio,
Chicago, Fresno and Sacramento, Calif.

Atlanta is one of three cities set to come on
board with its own Copa franchise next year.
Cuddihy envisions “virtually” all of Univision’s
owned TV markets eventually featuring
a local Copa—something of a road show, with
standard rules and regs market to market.

No Corona

The competitions are family friendly, with live music,
food and kids’ entertainment in addition to the matches.
Cash prizes for winners are the exception much more
than the norm. Spectators enter for free. Univision
takes in revenue from sponsors, which buy booths and/
or signage around the field, though the broadcaster
doesn’t permit beer company sponsors, which keeps
the family vibe intact. Dish Network and the grocery
chain HEB are two prominent backers. Fans of the socalled
beautiful game are free to walk around and stop
by the vendor booths for giveaways, or even test drive
an automotive sponsor’s new wheels in the parking lot.

While the stations’ own air would be a logical place to
broadcast the more skilled later rounds, they do not show
the matches. But highlights do pepper the local news and
the network sports show Republica Deportiva, and local
news crews often set up on-site for the weekend’s newscasts.
Building up to a larger footprint for Copa, notes
Cuddihy, might make the larger matches a fit on the
Univision Deportes network. “As we’re trying to build
toward a national tournament, the conversation with the
network is the next logical step,” he says.

Soccer SoCal Style

Copa Univision was launched in San Diego in 2002.
When 75 teams signed up, Luis Patino, Univision senior
VP, knew he was on to something. “Our initial thoughts
were to take advantage of a World Cup year,” Patino
says, “and give it a local grassroots element.” (South
Korea and Japan hosted the Cup in ’02, if you’re scoring
at home, and Brazil won.)

A number of global corporations had attempted
their own local tourneys, only to see them fizzle out
before long, Patino says. While Univision partnered
with a soccer organizer in San Diego, Patino says the
competition’s mistake was farming out too much of the
planning. (The San Diego tourney is known as Copa
San Diego, as Entravision owns the station.)

The giant soda and home improvement brands didn’t
have the media reach of Univision, either. “The advantage
Univision has is they can promote the events on
the radio and TV stations,” says Lia Silkworth, executive
VP and managing director at the minority-focused
marketing firm Tapestry. “They can put so much more
behind it at the local level.”

The derby grew dramatically last year, when Univision
added competitions in San Francisco, Houston, Chicago,
New York and Fresno. It’s noteworthy that the tournaments
have expanded beyond their Spanish-speaking base—footballers
drawn to stiff competition and perhaps the tasty
snacks afterwards. “It’s not just the core Univision viewer,”
says Patino. “They come for the quality soccer.”

While Silkworth says one of the attributes of Copa
Univision is its local flavor, she believes shifting it to a
national stage will open up a new level of revenue. “It’s
a really interesting, unique and powerful grassroots opportunity,”
she says. “[National] is the logical next step
of where the program should go to bring in a different
type of advertiser.”

The recently concluded Dallas competition featured
some 2,700 players and more than 10,000 spectators,
Cuddihy says. It’s engagement such as this that leads
him to believe Copa Univision will thrive on a national
scope. “Its success points to the relationship our brand
has with viewers,” Cuddihy says. “I’m not sure everyone
could do this. We’re excited we can.”