Alianza de Fútbol – entrepreneurship scores

The following article from Hispanic Market Weekly covers the efforts of two entrepreneurs who have recognized an opportunity to leverage existing assets – the plethora of independent Hispanic soccer leagues and the passion associated with the game of soccer – to build tournaments that showcase the talents of thousands of players and to introduce to them opportunities heretofore not abundantly familiar, e.g. college scholarships, professional contracts.

The article also captures the challenges these entrepreneurs have had in building this enterprise, e.g. tight spending in a tough economy, and their response to such challenges. It also highlights the importance of sponsors in enabling such events and programs. Kudos to Verizon Wireless and Sears.

The Alianza is a great effort and may be a model for sports businesses. Please visit to see how much has already been accomplished.

The full article from Hispanic Market Weekly can be found at, with an excerpt below.


Soccer For The Masses, Thanks To Sponsors

Hispanic Market Weekly, November 13, 2009

Seven years ago, Richard Copeland and Brad Rothenberg – partners at San Francisco-based BRC Group – achieved success with the launch of Fútbolito for Major League Soccer.

The four-on-four soccer tournament, held in 13 high-density Hispanic markets across the U.S., had landed a presenting sponsor in Panasonic; Copeland put the deal together.

The launch of Fútbolito for the MLS led Copeland and Rothenberg to further develop ways for amateur Latino soccer players to compete and participate in a national program. In 2003, the Alianza de Fútbol was born.

Today, Hispanic players from across the country have been able to take advantage of skills clinics and free tryouts with recruiters from professional soccer clubs in Mexico. The Alianza also helps in securing college scholarships for up-and-coming Latino teens.

Rothenberg describes the Alianza as a soccer federation for those who are unable to participate in U.S. Soccer-affiliated tournaments, due to cost. As most of the adult soccer community is unaffiliated, Copeland notes, Alianza was able to step in and give amateur players of all ages an opportunity to challenge the best of other amateur leagues.

“Independent leagues never really played against each other until we came along and presented inter-league tournaments,” Rothenberg says.

This year was a banner one, in terms of participants. The number of participating cities increased from 10 to 18. Player participation saw a year-to-year increase of 156 percent, to 19,420.

“We had 400-plus leagues from around the country participate in Copa Alianza,” Copeland says. “We averaged between 800 and 1,000 players on 40 to 50 teams.”

Staging the annual tournament, and expanding its scope in 2009, came as a result of sponsorships from Verizon Wireless – the title sponsor of Copa Alianza – in addition to Fox Sports en Español and Sears.

Copeland admits, however, that luring sponsors to the grass-roots, multi-city soccer tournament is not an easy proposition.

“It is an interesting pitch,” he says. “Just about every single Hispanic advertising agency and every Hispanic marketing executive will say that being local is very important, if not a critical part of one’s strategy. But it’s a real challenge to attract sponsors. There are not too many companies spending below-the-line. The meaningful dollars are just not there. Twenty-five companies represent 80 percent of the dollars.”

Copeland’s pitch to potential advertisers focuses on soccer as one of two leading Hispanic consumer passion points, with the other being music. The client is then shown how they can reach a large audience of unacculturated Latinos – many of whom are blue-collar workers and recent immigrants.

“It is a good opportunity to reach a hard-to-reach audience and build brand awareness,” he says.

Many prospective clients agree. But there’s a commitment issue at play.

“Being in the Hispanic market requires a commitment, and the results don’t show up until you’ve been at it for a year or more,” Copeland says. “A lot of our sponsorships are one-year deals. The clients are just not ready to make that commitment.”

Rothenberg argues that participation with Alianza de Fútbol can help a skittish CMO in staying committed to a Hispanic marketing effort, given its established community ties and the goodwill already established with amateur footballers.

(The article continues at