Soccer Business Bits: WPS Goes Pink, Ticket Sales In KC & More

In an effort to increase breast cancer awareness, Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), in conjunction with PUMA will outfit players in special Project Pink kits for five WPS matches. Puma has also created a range of Project Pink merchandise that will be available for purchase beginning this summer and continuing through Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Profits from the sale of PUMA’s Project Pink gear will be donated to a nonprofit committed to breast cancer awareness or research; the beneficiary will be named as the result of a national online voting campaign.  For more on the “good works” of various American soccer leagues, check out our series on the charitable efforts of MLS and WPS here.

In the aftermath of the Wizards’ surprising showing against Manchester United, USA Today is reporting that the team sold 700 new season tickets for their 2011 campaign in their new stadium.  If these are indeed new season ticket holders, the 700 new additions show the power of these friendlies to attract existing soccer fans to their local MLS side.  Clearly the Wizards put on a good show, and despite the overwhelming percentage of the crowd that came dressed in red, many Manchester fans came away impressed with Kansas City.  With a new stadium just months away, momentum appears to be building in Kansas City to vault the Wizards to the next level.

Finally, league sponsors Panasonic and Best Buy are joining forces to sponsor a meet and greet with an array of MLS all-stars. The event is part of the week long festivities in Houston in advance of the match against Manchester United.  The event provides fans with the opportunities to meet players, get autographs and play video games.

Soccer Business Bits: Henry Rolls Out, ESPN Gears Up & More

The biggest story in MLS remains the introduction of Theirry Henry to American sports fans and mainstream media.  In addition to the official press conference, Henry made appearances on the Univision morning show, “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, and “Late Night” on NBC.  He also provided a print interview to the AP.  Henry’s ability to speak in French, Spanish and English makes him an extremely marketable commodity and he impressed in the interview.  The signing generated headlines, even here in Hartford where the local radio news program commented on Henry during AM drive. At the same time, many of the New York area sportscasts studiously ignored the signing. Sportsradio WFAN paid little mind to Henry and SNY (the home of the Mets) followed suit. Despite pushing some great marketing buttons (that included some fun guerrilla marketing both on the ground and online), the Red Bulls couldn’t push Henry into the mainstream in the New York area.

ESPN’s impressive commitment to soccer (did anyone notice Landon Donovan’s John Skipper reference at the ESPYs?), continues with broadcasts of multiple friendlies over the next few weeks.  Games involving MLS teams and world powers like Tottenham, Manchester United and Celtic are part of those broadcasts, as is the MLS All Star game and the USA/Brazil match in August.  In combination with their usual MLS broadcasts and the start of the European club season, it will continue to be an exciting Summer of Soccer on the Worldwide leader.

Some quick hits…In Kansas City, the Wizards are aggressively selling tickets for their May 25 match against Manchester United.  According to this interview, ticket sales are near 60,000.  Most of the remaining available tickets range from $40-60.  Elsewhere, Commissioner Garber gave some strong statements indicating that MLS is not entertaining transfer offers for Landon Donovan.  At the same time, there are more rumblings about the possibility of MLS expanding to New York City.

Business Snapshot

After an exciting and remarkably popular (in the US) month of World Cup soccer, we thought it worthwhile to take a quick look at the business of American soccer moving forward from July 12, 2010.  The World Cup was a business success in the States, with ESPN’s significant investment of resources validated by the ratings earned both over the air and online.  Sponsors who invested in ad time were rewarded with viewership often 50% greater than pre tournament expectations.

In MLS, action has restarted after the World Cup break with strong attendance around the league.  An array of international friendlies will draw big crowds to MLS parks across the country as will the All-Star game at Reliant Stadium against Manchester United.  We also saw the opening the opening of PPL Park in Philadelphia.  Starting with the expected reveal of Thierry Henry of July 14, this coming week will see the formal introduction of Designated Players in DC, Seattle and elsewhere.  MLS fans will also be interested to see what what surprise players make the trip to MLS. At the same time, it will be interesting to watch MLS ratings and whether ESPN can continue its devotion to televised soccer.

American soccer fans will also be casting a business eye to Europe to follow the transfer market for American players based in Europe.  Following the World Cup, a number of American athletes will likely be on the move, parlaying their South African adventure into big contracts and impressive transfers.

WPS is settling into its second season with a new stadium in Atlanta, a successful All Star game and additional jersey sponsors entering the league.  WPS is now part of the American sports landscape and looking to grow.

Soccer Business Bits: Man U All Stars?, Soccer Photos & More

The Sports Business Journal is reporting that Manchester United may be planning a return to the United States for a four city tour in the Summer.  According to the report, SUM and CAA Sports are working together to bring the famed club to the New World for the first time since 2004.  Proposed stops include Boston, Toronto, Philly and perhaps most importantly for MLS fans, Houston, for the 2010 MLS All-Star game.   CAA is looking to follow-up on its “Summer of Soccer” from 2009 that brought hundreds of thousands out to see top European clubs.  The All Star game is scheduled for Reliant stadium, and thus many expected a Mexican club to be the opponent.  Man U is a much bigger fish.

The SBJ is reporting that many top players for Man U may not be part of the trip,  Which players appear is a heated part of negotiations to bring foreign teams to US soil.  Typicaly, contracts require a certain number of top tier players as part of the traveling show. This is similar to MLB Spring training games where teams are forced to bring a certain number of regulars to away games.

According to this article, GettyImages and MLS have renewed their partnership to make Getty the “exclusive commercial photographic partner” of MLS.  Getty will provide photos from 480 MLS games in 2010.  In addition to league rights, the deal includes service to each of the MLS Clubs.  Thanks to MLS Rumors for the link.

Finally, Steve Goff is reporting that Gol TV will start broadcasting in HD on August 1.  It will be offered as a simulcast with the standard definition broadcast.