They are on every talk show…one player adorns the rarefied air of the cover of Sports Illustrated. They are the new darlings of sport, despite their loss on Sunday. They are the women of American soccer, and their media tour this week has again helped to lift the profile of a sport…soccer…as much as if not more than women’s sports. So how does all this help in the long term for brand soccer?
While the natural assumption is that these heroes coming home could bolster the much beleaguered path that Women’s Professional Soccer is on (teams have reported increased ticket sales, at least for the first few homecoming games for the league), the bigger picture is how this success can be weaved into the overall interest in soccer…not men’s soccer, not women’s soccer, not youth soccer…overall. Next up for the sport in the United States is the very high profile All-Star game at Red Bull Arena…MLS vs. Manchester United…and the league will be pulling out all the stops to showcase the game, it’s brand and its stars across the river in New York to fans, advertisers and media partners. Having some of the recently successful women on hand would also be a nice help. Women’s World Cup will surely be mentioned in the same breath as MLS next week in and around the marketing and the soccer community.
The other big bridge World Cup success builds is to next summer and the London Olympics. Much as officials will say that there will be a huge bump in interest in WPS, the fact remains that professional women’s soccer, both here and even more so abroad, still does not register. Go up to the casual fan next week and they will know Hope Solo or Abby Wambach maybe, but ask if they know what Sky Blue FC is, even in New Jersey where the team is based, and you will probably get a blank stare. Publicity and media attention is great, but without continued reinforcement with marketing dollars and TV, the pro interest will wan as it has in the past. The real value is toward the next group of bright lights at the Olympics. USA Soccer and key brands now have added bounce to profile the women of soccer going into London, something they might not have had before this past weekend. While women’s soccer may not have been key for NBC before, it could be now, and those who played in World Cup and shined, and will play in the Olympics a year from now, will get more stage time. That helps the athletes and it helps the sport on all levels, as every ounce of exposure continues to be critical for the game’s growth in the States.
So as we look back at the real value of this past weekend, with its record tweets and posts and TV numbers and drama, we should look for the real winner, which is brand soccer. A sport which has enjoyed steady growth over the last ten years got another bump, this time from the women’s side, and that bump helps the game more than the individual, which is what team sports is supposed to be about.