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Heineken, Major League Soccer uncap team rivalries with custom emoji

Heineken and Major League Soccer are brewing awareness for their annual Rivalry Week festivities by rolling out a custom emoji that will appear in any Tweet containing the #RivalryWeek hashtag.

Heineken and Major League Soccer?s use of custom emojis points to the growing trend of marketers tapping customized content on social media to spur additional brand mentions and gain more buzz on consumers? most frequented platforms. Fans will be able to take advantage of the custom emoji from May 19 to 23, coinciding with the springtime version of Rivalry Week, which precedes the summer celebration.

?Soccer is a sport that?s social in nature,? said Roberto Ryder, brand manager at Heineken. ?Whether you?re at a bar with friends, or in-stadium following live, the custom emoji brings another social layer to #RivalryWeek, and gives Heineken and MLS a relevant way to connect with fans during their match day viewing and drinking occasions.?

Kicking up social engagement
Heineken and Major League Soccer are ensuring that Rivalry Week stays at the forefront of consumers? minds by maintaining a heavy presence on social media. Fans can follow the @HeinekenSoccer Twitter account and official Facebook page to receive more information on the weeklong festivities, or visit HeinekenRivalryWeek.com.

Rivalry Week encompasses two weekends of competition taking place over the spring and summer that celebrate the league?s most anticipated games of the year. Consumers in multiple metropolitan areas can attend supporting events to share in the revelry and enjoy themed festivities, such as a Times Square takeover sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings and live viewing events with DJs.

For the first time in the event?s history, social media users will also be able to enjoy a custom emoji. Major League Soccer and Twitter have teamed up to develop a custom emoji that will appear in Tweets containing the official hashtag #RivalryWeek.

The emoji will become available for use at 9 am ET on May 19, and will be active through 9 am ET on May 23.

The two brands are also introducing a new content series, designed to showcase the passion of various soccer clubs and their supporters. The ?Get Me In There!" series will highlight different fan cultures around North America, and will be viewable on the @HeinekenSoccer social media accounts as well as www.mlssoccer.com/videos/get-me-in-there.

Tapping into mobile platforms to promote Rivalry Week is a smart move for Heineken and Major League Soccer, both of which seek to bolster their millennial fan bases.

?We're excited to offer fans a real-time experience on Twitter and Periscope that complements the action on the FOX broadcast, and brings the in-stadium fan and player experience to life in new and unique ways ? from behind-the-scenes tours and sideline reporters to match highlights,? said Howard Handler, chief marketing officer of Major League Soccer

?Major League Soccer enjoys the youngest fan base in North American professional sports, and we're constantly striving for innovative ways to bring them closer to the game. The MLS Heineken #RivalryWeek emoji on Twitter will give fans an exciting visual way to express their passion and connect with their favorite Clubs and players.?

Egging on emojis
Heineken and Major League Soccer are not the only marketers leveraging custom emojis to supplement longer-term campaigns and events.

Walmart added the latest social media components to its recent Fight Hunger. Spark Change campaign, rolling out its first Snapchat filters to select bricks-and-mortar locations and prompting consumers to show support on Twitter by introducing a custom emoji (see story).

Meanwhile, several weeks ago, Pepsi continued to speak the language of mobile fanatics with the latest in a series of marketing efforts featuring custom emojis by bringing the designs into the real world, extending the iconic colors of the brand with social media photography (see story).

Heineken and Major League Soccer?s foray into custom emojis will likely help ramp up even more awareness surrounding the Rivalry Week festivities. The promise of a new emoji could prompt consumers to use the designated hashtag more often, a feat that would help circulate Rivalry Week mentions quickly without the need for Promoted Tweets.

?Exclusive emoji downloads have been growing in popularity amongst both brands and consumers, offering a playful, interactive way to increase brand exposure for the pure entertainment of the brand?s followers,? said Toni Box, director of social media and content at PM Digital. ?The key to successful branded emojis is that they align with a larger campaign, a great example being the Always ?Like a Girl? campaign.

?An event like Heineken Rivalry Week could benefit from the use of a custom emoticon because it?s a great way to pull together audiences with similar interests ? soccer and beer ? in a way that flows seamlessly with online conversations. Custom emojis that accompany a particular hashtag are even more likely to be leveraged given that users can save the extra steps of having to download (something emoji keyboard apps require).?