Covering the Coverage: MLS Cup Edition

This is our last post before the Cup Final on Saturday, so with the media starting to descend on Los Angeles, now is a good time to look at how some of major outlets are covering the upcoming match.  Before looking at game coverage, the first link is to a must read of Grant Wahl’s annual chat with Commissioner Garber.  For fans of the business of soccer in the United States, the piece is a must read.

The Dynamo page on the Chron.com has an array of features on the Dynamo and the upcoming match.

The Sports page of the Los Angeles Times continues to lack a Galaxy specific (of soccer specific) link across the masthead.   The soccer page does have a few stories about the upcoming match, Beckham’s retirement and Donovan’s possible departure.

Although you have to make your way to the MLS Page, ESPN.com has a fair amount of coverage about the league and upcoming match.

USA Today started Thursday with Chris Wondolowski’s MVP win and the soccer page of the online version of the paper includes a number of articles about the league, the players and the upcoming match.

Not surprisingly, NBC Sports’ page is full of features and news stories about the match.

Finally, TSN’s webpage is full of articles about the game, the players and the state of the league.

We’ll be back on Monday with a business blog of the game.   Enjoy the big match!

Advertisements

Cup Final Business Bits

The MLS Cup Final is just days away so I thought we would provide some business items related to the league’s end of season showcase.  Let’s start with the the television broadcast, which is slated to air on ESPN on Saturday at 4:30 Eastern.  The match should kick off at 4:55 following a pre-game show anchored by Max Bretos.  According to the Worldwide Leader, the telecast will include 19 cameras, including 2 super slo-mo and overhead images from the Goodyear blimp.  Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman will broadcast their first MLS Cup from the ESPN booth as part of a group of 12 commentators.  There will also be the requisite interview with David Beckham.  as well as extensive coverage on Sportscenter, ESPN’s digital platforms, ESPN Deportes and ESPN International.

Elsewhere, the league has been making an effort to promote the match in a number of venues, with league representatives appearing on a wide array of varied shows including Morning Joe, business shows and other sports related programming.   In Houston, a Dynamo Day was declared by the Mayor with entreaties to city residents to wear orange in support of the team.  During the week, the LA Galaxy announced that AEG and the LA Galaxy Foundation have partnered with MLS W.O.R.K.S., to donate a multi-use LA Galaxy branded Sport Court as well as donating sports equipment and creating year-long sports programs along with beautifying the Learning Center at the Boys and Girls Club of Carson.

Part of the week included a tour of the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.  In making its way to Los Angeles, the trophy made stops in Houston and LA including in front of the Hollywood sign and at NASA.

The Business of Becks

On Saturday David Beckham will take the field for the last time as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy.  After six years, the final chapter in the (with a nod to Grant Wahl) Beckham experiment in Majort League Soccer is finally coming to a close.  From a business standpoint, it’s hard to argue that Beckham’s tenure in the United States was anything other than an unqualified success.  Despite the initial puffery involved with claims of $250 million contracts, early struggles on the field and missteps by Beckham himself, the league has seen a period of great growth over the last six years.

The reports of 300,000 Beckham jersey sales in the first year were not fabrications.  The new television deal for the league with NBC (not to mention the $55 million deal for local broadcasts of Galaxy games), the proliferation of soccer specific stadiums, the increase in jersey sponsors (the first Herbalife  jersey deal  just became a 10 year $44 million extension) and the ever increasing expansion fees cannot be disconnected from Beckham’s bold decision to ply his trade in the States.  Perhaps most notable is the remarkable increase in league attendance.  The year before Beckham joined the league, MLS averaged approximately 15,500 fans per game in attendance.  In 2012, the league managed a remarkable 18,800 per game at the gate.

Throughout his time in MLS, Beckham was a willing participant in media outreach, publicity campaigns and league showcases.  Despite some questioning of his commitment at times, Beckham was a great ambassador for the league and never wavered in his efforts to promote MLS and soccer in America.   Six years later, the soccer imprint on the American sports landscape is bigger, broader and more impressive. While not entitled to all of the credit, the signing of David Beckham was a significant factor in strengthening and sustaining the future of professional soccer in the United States.

And the Winner…..

Congratulations to the Chicago Fire, the winner of the 2012 Footiebusiness Team PR Award.  The Fire edged out 2011 winner Sporting Kansas City in the closest race in the history of the award.

Chicago is definitely a deserving champion.  The team had a great year in the stands with attendance increasing by 15% to well over 16,000 fans per game.   Last year the team averaged more than 1,000 over its lifetime average and more than 2,000 over its 2011 number.   Perhaps the biggest business news for Chicago came during the Winter, when the team announced a $1.3-1.5 million dollar per year jersey sponsorship agreement with Quaker Oats. If the report is accurate, the new deal is a great score for a Fire franchise that went without a jersey sponsor in 2011 after Best Buy ended its relationship before the season started last year.  The team also has done a great job on social media and prepared some great visuals to celebrate its 15th anniversary.

Here are some of the highlights of the Fire’s season in PR

Here is an article describing some of the nuances of  the Quaker Oats jersey partnership: http://www.hottimeinoldtown.com/2012/1/20/2720358/quaker-oats-chicago-fire-oatmeal-press-release-in-a-canister

Here is one of a series of clever tv commercials that the team ran in the Chicago area: http://www.chicago-fire.com/video/2012/05/24/dominic-oduro-does-everything-fast

The team also leveraged its relationship with Quaker to create unique Life Cereal boxes with Austin Berry’s photo and statistics as a way to promote his Rookie of the Year campaign.

It was a great 2012 for the Fire.  Congratulations to Chicago on winning the 2012 Footiebusiness Team PR Award.  The competition for the 2013 version starts today.

Monday After: Time to Vote

Less than one week until MLS Cup and it is time to vote for the MLS Front Office/PR Award. Once again, the league used to define the Award this way:  “Department recognized for consistent, accurate and proactive efforts in providing media members with information and generating coverage for its team.”  However, because this is now a Footiebusiness Award, we think recognition for marketing and promotional efforts should also be included.  For purposes of this award, the “2012 year” started when voting closed last October. For our brief summary of the candidacies of Houston and Sporting, click here. For the candidacies of San Jose and Chicago, click here.


Register your votes, add your comments.  Voting closes at 9 Eastern on Monday night.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick happy Thanksgiving note from Footiebusiness to you and your family.  We will be back with on schedule with a post Monday morning.  In the interim, enjoy a post from last year about the holiday shopping experience in MLS.

ImageWith everyone scrambling to buy just the right gift for the holidays, we thought it worth revisiting we did a few months back on the MLS shopping experience.

We have repeatedly posted about the MLS shopping experience. From a shortage of gear at brick and mortar retailers, to the absence of infant sized Galaxy items to the improved online experience, we have repeatedly written about procuring MLS items.  Today we are pleased to present some thoughts from Stu Crystal, Major League Soccer’s Vice President of Consumer Products, about shopping for league merchandise.  Mr. Crystal is a graduate of SUNY Stony Brook and has been with the league for more than 10 years.  Thanks to Mr. Crystal.  Please drop a line in the comments section telling us about your MLS shopping experience.

Footiebusiness.com:  On MLSSoccer.com, the primary “shop” link brings fans to MLS Gear rather than individual team stores. Is MLS Gear the league’s preferred online shopping destination?  Does the league have relationships with third party vendors that sell official merchandise online?  Certain teams (e.g. DC and NY) appear to have individual team stores that carry a wide variety of team merchandise and apparel, while others seem to rely on MLS Gear.  Why do some teams have individual stores and others do not?  For those that have team stores, do those outlets typically carry more variety than the MLS Gear Shop?  Does the league encourage teams to operate their own shops online?

Stu Crystal: MLS Gear is the official online store for Major League Soccer. We’re testing some online team stores and exploring the option to allow all teams to have official club stores. At this time, we are not encouraging teams to operate their own shops online. We have a centralized option in MLS Gear but are open to team shops if we determine that fans prefer to shop at team branded stores. We hope to have a definitive direction by the start of the 2013 season. We do have relationships with other online retailers, including World Soccer Shop, Fan’s Edge, Amazon, etc.

FB: What types of merchandise (e.g. jerseys, youth gear, etc…) are typically the best sellers?  What items are the least popular? What individual player jerseys are the top sellers this year?  Are there items that aren’t currently available that fans should expect to see soon?

SC:  Jerseys and other core fan items, such as scarves and t-shirts, are the best sellers. We’re currently coordinating with our licensees to add higher end items, such as foosball tables and Dream Seats, for the holiday season.

FB: How has the online MLS shopping experience improved over the years?  What changes should shoppers expect in the coming months?

SC:  Last year, we shifted to working with Sports Endeavors, the dominant online soccer retailer in this country. This partnership allows us to provide fans with the highest level of customer service and an increased variety in what we can offer – footwear, international club items, etc.

FB: One commonly heard complaint from fans is that league merchandise is hard to find at brick and mortar retailers, including those operated by league partners. What efforts are made to increase the presence of league items at these locations?

SC:  We’ve hired someone to focus on retail development, and we’re working closely with Dick’s Sporting Goods to increase the selection of MLS merchandise in our markets. As the league grows and the demand for MLS merchandise grows, we will see an increase in merchandise in brick and mortar retailers.

Team PR Award Part II

As we stated last week, it is time to start looking at the candidates for the Footiebusiness Team PR award. In past years, the Award was defined this way:  “Department recognized for consistent, accurate and proactive efforts in providing media members with information and generating coverage for its team.”  However, because this is now a Footiebusiness Award, we think recognition for marketing and promotional efforts should also be included.For purposes of this award, the “2012 year” started when voting closed last October. For our brief summary of the candidacies of Houston and Sporting, click here.

Our third finalist is the Chicago Fire.  The team had a great year in the stands with attendance increasing by 15% to well over 16,000 fans per game.   Last year the team averaged more than 1,000 over its lifetime average and more than 2,000 over its 2011 number.   Perhaps the biggest business news for Chicago came during the Winter, when the team announced a $1.3-1.5 million dollar per year jersey sponsorship agreement with Quaker Oats. If the report is accurate, the new deal is a great score for a Fire franchise that went without a jersey sponsor in 2011 after Best Buy ended its relationship before the season started last year.  The team also has done a great job on social media and prepared some great visuals to celebrate its 15th anniversary.

Our last candidate is San Jose.  Despite the close confines of its Buck Shaw premises, the team averaged more than 13k during the season thanks to its occasional forays off site.  Nevertheless, the team saw a 12% increase in year over year attendance.  Perhaps most importantly, the team broke ground on a new stadium after years of starts and stops.  The ground breaking drew a Guinness Book record for a ground breaking while generating publicity for the team.  On the downside, the team failed to secure a shirt sponsor for 2012 following the end of its relationship with Amway.

Any other suggestions?  Lay it on?  Voting will be next week.