Brazil Enters Big Leagues In Global Sports Sponsoring

Petrobras and other Brazilian firms are using sports sponsorships to up their international profile. Brazil’s booming economy gives them extra leverage in places like Argentina and Chile, but it may also be pricing them out at home.

Petrobras is one of two Brazilian companies sponsoring Argentina's River Plate (above) soccer team
Petrobras is one of two Brazilian companies sponsoring Argentina's River Plate (above) soccer team
Daniel Cardoso

FLORIANÓPOLIS -- The dejected players left the field, some in tears. In the stands, the team's fans stood stunned. Sadness quickly turned to anger as reality began to sink in: for the first time its glorious 110-year history, River Plate – Argentina's second most popular football team – had just been relegated to the second division.

But while the emotional blow was mostly felt in Argentina, the economic shock of River Plate's dismal downgrade hit hardest across the border - in Brazil, home to Petrobras and Tramontina, the team's principal sponsors. Tramontina, a knife manufacturer based in Rio Grande do Sul, has done business in Argentina for 40 years. Besides being featured on River Plate's jerseys, the company's logo also appears on the team's outdoor training facilities, in River Plate advertisements and on its official website. The same goes for Petrobras, the Brazilian oil giant.

Tramontina's contract with River Plate expires in December. The team's deal with Petrobras goes until next June. But even if both companies decide to cut their ties with River Plate, neither is likely to pull out of the Argentine market altogether. Nor are they the only Brazilian firms happy to sign sponsorship deals there. According to Amir Somoggi, director of a sports consulting firm called BDO Brasil, Brazilian companies have a lot of cross-border negotiating power these days thanks to the booming economy and the relative strength of the real. "With Argentina there's the added fact that it has historically had good commercial relations with us," he says.

Besides sponsoring River Plate, Petrobras also has a hand in Argentine auto racing. It has sponsorship deals in other South American countries as well. For a while Chile's main soccer tournament went by the name "Petrobras National Championships."

Brazil's economy, too hot to handle?

But as much as these kinds of sponsorships are about seizing opportunities abroad, they're also a symptom of the difficulties Brazilian companies face in sponsoring sports teams and events at home. Brazil's economic upswing has, in some cases, made such sponsorship deals prohibitively expensive for local companies. Sponsoring River Plate costs Petrobras about $2.5 million per year. Its deal with Chile cost $1 million per year. That's a laughable sum compared to what it would have to pay to sponsor a championship tournament for the Brasileirão, Brazil's top soccer division.

"Over the last couple of decades, big international names like Adidas, Nike and Puma entered Brazil with force, sponsoring various teams," says Robert Alvarez, a professor at São Paulo's ESPM, a professional marketing school. "This increased the value of the market, prompting local sportswear brands to look abroad to do business."

An emblematic example is Penalty, a well-known Brazilian sportswear brand that, starting in 2008, made a strong push to expand its presence outside the country. Penalty's foreign sponsorship deals include the Uruguayan soccer team Defensor, which won a championship in 2010; the Chilean first division team Everton in Viña del Mar; Vélez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Amiral Quebec, a female soccer club in Canada. Penalty also managed to get its logo onto the jerseys of the referees in the most recent Copa América tournament.

Brazil's biggest sports-related sponsorship deals, however, occurred during last year's World Cup in South Africa, when brands like Seara, a food company, and beer giant Brahma appeared side-by-side on billboards with the likes of Coca-Cola and Hyundai. "They're billionaire companies that don't have problems with money and are strong competitors," says Amir Somoggi. "That's why they can invest in the kind of sponsorships that will allow them to be seen by 2 billion people."

Read more from AméricaEconomía in Spanish

Photo - DanielHP

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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