Major League Soccer Marketers Should Strike Now
This past Sunday’s World Cup final was the most watched soccer game in U.S. History, as Germany’s 1-0 extra-time win over Argentina garnered about 26.5 million viewers here in the States.
While soccer may not be ready to replace one of the four major U.S. sports, the 2014 World Cup proved that soccer has certainly holds a large portion of America’s sports psyche. Now the question is whether or not soccer will continue to hold our attention between now and the next World Cup in 2018. More specifically, will the United States’ interest in this year’s tournament lead to success for Major League Soccer?
The overall attention of sports-crazed American’s has already largely moved back to Major League Baseball, where Derek Jeter’s last All-Star Game appearance became national front-page news. In a month and a half, the juggernaut NFL will begin its 2014 season, which, as usual, will all but totally take over the sports world. The point is that while it is clear soccer is growing in popularity, MLS marketers still have quite a challenge ahead of them.
However, while there are some major hurdles to overcome, many factors favor Major League Soccer; it is just a matter of whether or not the league is willing to take advantage of them.
Tweets about the World Cup Final peaked at 618,725 tweets per minute on Sunday, while 32.1 million tweets were sent about the game overall. While it would be nice to entice older members of the population to follow MLS, the league’s main focus should be Millennials, a generation that is not only the wave of the future, but understand and accepts the game of soccer. With this said, social media should continue to be a major tactic in MLS’s marketing strategy to attract more fans.
In addition, MLS teams cannot be afraid to “go all in”, meaning that they should not avoid bringing in some of the greatest players in the world. While the David Beckem experiment with the LA Galaxy didn’t exactly go according to plan, there is no question that while fans want to see exceptional gameplay, the celebrity of their athletes drives the popularity of many sports. For example, New York’s newest team, New York City FC, recently signed Spain great David Villa. It is going to take other big names to compete with names like Carmelo Anthony and Eli Manning, but this is a step in the right direction for the newly founded franchise, which is set to begin its first season in 2015.
Finally, MLS cannot be afraid to explore smaller markets. While having teams in cities such as New York and Los Angeles seems like a no-brainer, areas such as Oklahoma City, Austin, and San Antonio are all hungry for more professional teams. Just this past weekend a match between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers, two towns on the smaller end of the spectrum, drew over 64,000 spectators at Century Link Filed (home of the Seattle Seahawks), numbers comparable to an NFL game. Major League Soccer should continue to look into markets previously untouched.
While the game may still have some ground to make up in winning the hearts and minds of Americans, all the pieces are present to make MLS a successful league in the U.S. All they have to do is take advantage of them – now.