Did the 2014 World Cup turn the USA into a soccer-crazy market?

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The American national team is gaining respect on the international scene, but the level of domestic earnings from soccer is still modest compared to the other major sports.

No country is the world is immune to the football fever and the disease seems to finally be spreading to the United States. A successful appearance of the national team in the past World Cup has certainly pushed popularity of ‘the world’s favorite pastime’ to a new level – the broadcast of the match between the USA and Ghana was viewed by some 11 million people in the US, compared to mere 505,000 TV spectators for the 2013 Major League Soccer finals between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City.

Naturally, higher viewership numbers translate into more advertising money to go around. That means big brands are more likely to commit serious budgets to soccer-related marketing campaigns. According to research conducted by the Nielsen ratings agency, the total value of television advertising during soccer broadcasts moved up from $265 million in 2010 to $378 million in 2013 – a 43% jump that opens up great opportunities. The amount of the total programming hours dedicated to soccer has also risen accordingly, with 21 different networks airing soccer events by the end of 2013. To make things more interesting, a large chunk of the viewers are of Hispanic origin, prompting the networks to introduce dual-language coverage and companies to create ads targeted at Spanish speakers.

Soccer fans are also more valuable to high-end brands than regular TV viewers. This is backed-up by data from John Fetto, who works an executive for Experian Marketing Services: “World Cup fans are 2.7 times more likely than average [= regular TV viewers] to shop at Neiman Marcus [luxury department store], 2.5 times more likely to shop at Lord & Taylor [high-end retail chain], 2.1 times more likely to shop at Nordstrom [upscale fashion retailer]and 2.0 times more likely to shop at Saks Fifth Avenue [luxury department store]. Likewise, top indexing auto brands include Infinity, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Subaru and Lexus.”

However, the sustainability of this wave of popularity is a big question. It is one thing to cheer a national team once every four years and enjoy big international stars clash for glory, but watching domestic events bereft of global icons is something else entirely. In terms of pure advertising power, soccer has a long way to go before it can compare with the power players on the US soil – a 30 second ad slot during the Super Bowl costs around $4 million, dwarfing any soccer event (the World Cup included) by a factor of 10. This fact is not about to change any time soon – no matter how much success the Americans will have in the next World Cup cycle.

References: Forbes, Variety, Bon Brand, Businessweek

Picture: Whaley House Museum

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