Business Blogging: The MLS Cup Final

As we do for an number of big soccer events, here is a business blog of the MLS Cup 2010.  The match was broadcast on ESPN with Ian Darke making his MLS debut.  In the 30 minutes leading up to the game, ESPN provided two promos to its Sports Center and BCS viewers.  One of the promos included Darke’s first MLS moment. At 8:30, Max Bretos took over the coverage with Steve McManaman and Alexi Lalas after one of the typically well done intros that ESPN started during the World Cup.

Darke and Harkes got their first air time about 8 minutes into the broadcast after a hand-off from Bretos (who was on site for the match).  Harkes and Darke have a comfort level from South Africa.  Darke quickly brought in Rob Stone who was down on the field reporting on the weather (as did Bretos and Darke).  Back to the “studio” team to break down tactics. Pregame sponsored by VW

First set of commercials started with a VW ad, followed Allstate, Dick’s, Pepsi, adidas and assorted local sports.  After the break, ESPN provided back story on Kevin Hartman.  While many fans loathe these types of features, they do offer context for mainstream sports fans taking a casual interest in the game. ESPN then showed the RCMP walking the MLS Cup into the stadium followed by the players coming into the stadium and Garber shaking hands with the players.

ESPN exited for the national anthems and brought ads for “Faster”, Continental, Dick’s, CARFAX (seemingly a first time ad buyer), Gatorade and the MLS soccer spot (which is one of the better ads the league has run over the years).  There were also a series of local ads.  It is rare to see movie ads during MLS matchups, so it is interesting to see the studios taking an interest in the game.

Darke and Harkes did a brief intro before Stone got an interview with Hyndman.  Empty seats visible at kick-off. Visa, Gatorade Continental Tire, AT&T, Makita, Degree and adidas along the side boards.  The electronic boards were turning quickly with a number of the usual sponsors (first time I remember seeing FourPoints on an MLS board).  Castrol and adidas were inviting fans to hit social media/text  after reading the boards.  VW had the first on-screen advertisement. Dick’s was second and followed by Pepsi.  Darke read a couple of in game spots in the 11th minute.

Darke had clearly done his homework and was familiar with the players and some of the relevant history. Stone was brought in for the first time in the 33rd minute to announce that Zach Loyd would be coming on for injury.  Darke waited until the 45th minute to pump the halftime, which included an interview with the league Commish.

The halftime commercials included VW, Gatorade, Pepsi, Allstate, Michelin (how is this possible given the Continental relationship) and a multitude of local spots.  The Garber interview was the halftime highlight, with Garber describing a number of changes to the competition structure of the league.  He reiterated the return of the reserve league, the addition of 2 additional playoff teams (10 teams become 8 through a play-in).  No solution to the East/West issue.  He suggested a way to incentivize teams to go for the Supporters Shield, including money, draft position and a “simulated” pro/rel.  There was also a plug for USA Bid.

Crowd slow to return to their seats after the half.  Stone piped in just after the half with a bit about Daniel Hernandez. More of the same after the break, with the same in-game ads.  Darke’s  Mo Johnston reference shows a remarkably surprising knowledge of the league, as did his mention of Jeff L’s pay issues with the Revs.  Harkes started off a bit chatty, but Darke and Harkes have done well.   Stone came back in the 60th minute after a chat with Hyndman.  His proximty to the benches does offer some insights during the course of the match.

A couple of Barca/Real Madrid promos during the game

Really a good broadcast.  Game is going to an extra 30 minutes.  We’ll put this up now and update as necessary.