Denver-area employers have World Cup fever

Companies making it easy for employees to watch games

DENVER — It would be a bit of a shock if the streets of Denver came to a screeching halt during World Cup games, but don’t be surprised if things are a little quieter come rush hour.

There are many companies in the Mile High City and surrounding areas who are giving their employees some latitude when it comes to watching the games from South Africa.

“We are making the games available for employees, [and] selective ones like [Friday's USA vs. Slovenia match] in their entirety,” Jim King, owner of JK Electric in downtown Denver, told MLSsoccer.com.

All across the Front Range, an area that includes Metro Denver and beyond to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, companies ranging from wine shops to legal practices and from medical services to advertising agencies are enjoying their own versions of World Cup fever.

At Harvest Wine and Spirits in Boulder, home of the CU Buffaloes, the store is doing a special sale of South African wines and of some of the World Cup beer sponsors such as Budweiser. Soccer balls are coming down from the ceiling and there are other World Cup displays too, explained store manager, Katey Weiland. The idea to get into the spirit came from one of the store’s employees who is a season ticket holder at the Colorado Rapids, she said.

The Rapids initiated their own list of World Cup friendly companies with their Friends of the World Cup program, recognizing those firms, restaurants and others who take a proactive stance in allowing their employees to enjoy the World Cup action and remain productive at the same time.

Even non-soccer fans have embraced the idea. The program is free and does allow some free advertising for the companies involved. Scott Riley, general manager of sign builder Biltrite based in Evans, Colorado, said his family-owned business had got into the idea after one of the employees, a Rapids’ fan, had suggested it.

“I’m not a big sports guy, but I’ve been reading the stories and definitely keeping up with it,” Riley said.

The Biltrite employees watch the games on their laptops.

Perhaps one of the most enthusiastic embracers of the program and of soccer in general is Denver-based Hispanic marketing and advertising agency, Heinrich Hispanidad. Drew Wilson, business development manager, said the 43 employees were being allowed to choose how they watched Thursday’s Mexico and France game, whether they went home, worked in the office or went to a local bar. Many of the firm’s employees are Mexican or are rooting for the US.

“Soccer is a great conversation starter,” Wilson said. “Soccer tends to be an excellent communication vehicle and we know our audience reacts very well to it with their passion for the game. We are trying to promote that as much as possible in our office.”

It may be too early to see if the company’s embrace of the World Cup is leading to greater business opportunities, but Wilson did say there has been interest in the company via tweets and Facebook.

And as for the US chances, Wilson couldn’t resist a little local angle, expressing some disappointment that Conor Casey of the Rapids had not been called into the US squad.

“I think we would have had a better chance if he was in the team, but we still like our chances a lot,” he said. “It’s probably the easiest group they have ever had and I see them as a quarterfinal team.”