It was just this past week when I heard a 10 year old boy at Sports Authority ask his dad “Why don’t we call soccer football like everyone else?” Now that’s not to say that the NFL needs to start ringing its hands and worry a great deal about brand issues, but it is another subtle reminder of how far band soccer has come in the United States, and the month of July should help to life even more awareness.
There are some who think that American soccer may suffer and see little value for the success of EURO2012 or all the friendlies that will be played across America in July. The truth is that those who believe that are incredibly short sighted. From a branding and viewership standpoint, the global health of the game and the casual mentions by fans of all sport will lift the tide of soccer in America. The idea that fans will get to see the mega-clubs of Europe, from Chelsea to Real Madrid to Paris Saint-Germaine to AS Roma to Liverpool and many others..as well as the French Championship between Lyon and Montpellier…is no different from NBA, NHL or NFL teams going abroad to play and create good will. It doesn’t cheapen the brand of MLS, it will enhance it, and that enhancement will bring more casual followers to MLS as well. The fact that the “friendlies” will not just be in larger urban areas like New York and Chicago but in Miami and Kansas City will also help expand the vision of brand soccer, as well as expose the international players to new areas where the game is growing.
From a brand side, the pop soccer is getting in the United States couldn’t be coming at a better time. many multi-national brands have been successful marketing to American fans, and now they can spread their wings abroad in a business they are familiar with (sport), while the door now opens the other way for non-American brands to use soccer as their entry point into the American marketplace. The growth also comes at a point where brands are starting to think more about large scale expansion in soccer for Rio 2014 coming off the mega-buys of the Olympics in London, and having soccer as the most viable option it has ever been in the United States is also very, very fortuitous.
Now this is not to say that all the pieces for American soccer on the highest level are all in place. The quality of technologically and fan-friendly soccer stadia does grow each year, MLS continues to raise its brand engagement platform and its quality of play for sure. However for a brand to come in and spend against all the friendlies in the States, engage those club stars and create engagement tools around MLS is still pretty unwieldy. However the roadmap for growth, which will continue with solid viewership for EURO 2012 on Sunday is clearer than it ever has been whether you are on the selling side or buying side of soccer in the U.S., and that is good news for all involved around the world in “The Beautiful Game.”