Q&A with Ernesto Bruce, U.S. Director of Adidas Soccer
In the next chapter of “Where Will The Sweat Life Go Today?” — the answer is Vancouver, Canada for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, with our friends from Adidas Women! In a trip filled with adventures, like hiking the Grouse Grind and kayaking Indian Arm, watching the U.S. Women’s Soccer team win against Nigeria 1-0 was the standout moment, hands down. (And now, with the U.S. win over Germany - finals here we come!)
We were lucky enough to get a few moments at the game with Ernesto Bruce, the Director of Adidas Soccer in the U.S., who told us that soccer is poised to become one of the biggest sports in the U.S. — matching soccer fervor all around the rest of the world. The best part: all you need is an able body, and a soccer ball. Here is our interview with Ernesto, talking with Sweat Life founder Aly Teich.
Aly Teich: Ernesto, tell me about the journey of the U.S. Women's Soccer Team to the World Cup this year.
Ernesto Bruce: It's pretty amazing, I think from my perspective, from both a business and personal perspective, it is amazing to see what's happening with soccer in North America, both in the U.S. and Canada, and especially the U.S. Soccer has been growing, but what I think has been the most spectacular thing is when you look at it from a women's perspective, you look around the stadium that we're sitting in right now, and if you walk around, you see a very diverse group of fans. You see male, female, a ton of little girls who are going to make the future of the sport in this country. And so from a U.S. National Team standpoint, to have that type of fan base, for the future players, who are looking at experienced veterans, and young players like Morgan Brian who are out there in her early 20's, playing in front of fifty thousand people, it's pretty inspirational. So I think the journey for me is bigger than just the team, it's what's happening with soccer in North America. It's huge.
A: Absolutely. And what do you think is/has been the precipice of the change with soccer in North America?
E: I think it's the young people. I think it's the fact that the U.S. has the largest youth participation in soccer of anywhere in the world. Ages 3-12, there are more kids playing soccer in the U.S. than there are anywhere else in the world. Those kids are the reason it's growing, but it's also the reason it hasn't grown quite as big as in other countries — because some of those kids fall out. And they either start playing other sports, partially because there are other professional leagues, because there's more money to be made, partially because of college (right?), the parents are saying: "Oh hey, you're a great player, go get a college scholarship, go to school." The men's league is a little further ahead, but in the women's league, there's not a ton of money to be made in it yet. TV is still catching up to it, so there's still growth to be had. I think the fact that it's the largest youth participation, the fact that we now have a professional women's league, the fact that there's fifty thousand, I'd say, Americans, literally sitting here chanting for their team, just shows opportunity. There's tons of opportunity. The little kids in there: soccer's going to be their favorite sport, because of this experience.
A: In a country like the U.S., that struggles with so many health issues, such as obesity and diabetes, having a sport like soccer where all you need is a space to play and a ball, do you feel like this could be a turning point for health in the U.S. as well?
E: I think not only for health, but from an accessibility standpoint: It's inexpensive, you can play in a team of 11, you can play 7 v. 7, 5 v. 5, 1 to... you can play by yourself against a wall, and still get health benefits out of it. I think once that catches on, where kids after school decide, "I don't have to put on my uniform, I don't have to go and wait for my coach, I can just play. I can set up 2 garbage cans and just play 1 v. 1 with whomever. It doesn't have to be boy or girl, it doesn't have to be in my age group, it can just be playing." Once that starts happening in this country, this country becomes street soccer players, that then translates to the professional, and it will be, it could be... it could be, in our lifetime, in the top three biggest sports in this country.
A: Well that's a good prediction. And what is Adidas's involvement with potentially making that happen?
E: It's huge. Soccer is in our DNA, we've been in soccer for over 90 years, longer than anybody else in the market. We invest heavily in the sport, obviously we have on the men's side the Major League Soccer here in the U.S. and in Canada, and in the women's side we invest in individual players, young players like Morgan Brian. I mean... programming. We do grassroots events, at the base. We sponsor over a thousand youth clubs in the U.S. to give them that accessibility to be able to play. We'll be putting in this year, 20 mini fields in the U.S. Those are 5 v. 5 small fields... resurfacing parking lots, resurfacing old tennis courts, in urban areas, to give accessible places for kids to play. So we invest heavily, and why? Because there's opportunity, but there's huge growth potential.
A: Absolutely. Thank you again!
As Senior Director of Soccer for adidas North America, Ernesto Bruce is implementing a unique blueprint to advance the brand’s global leadership in the sport and drive business in America. Through strategic business partnerships, aggressive, multi-platform marketing campaigns and creative grassroots initiatives, Ernesto works to elevate the adidas soccer business and actively reshape the future of the sport in America. Ernesto began his current role in February 2013.
Ernesto began playing soccer at age 5 in his hometown, Santiago, Chile, and continued to play when he moved to Portland, Ore. in high school. He still plays soccer daily with his coworkers on the adidas field, giving him the opportunity to test adidas Soccer’s most innovative products. Ernesto lives in Portland, Ore., home of the adidas North American headquarters, with his wife and two children.