Turnkey Sports: MLS Fans on Top

at&TThe Sports Business Journal is once again reporting on the fans of Major League Soccer’s remarkable connection to the corporate partners that support the league.  In reporting the results of the latest Turnkey sports poll, SBJ states that, “MLS sponsors were correctly identified as such by the league’s fans at a higher rate than the companies’ rival brands across all categories, according to the results of this year’s MLS Sponsor Loyalty survey conducted for SportsBusiness Journal/Daily by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment”

MLS fans’ track record of brand loyalty is a recurring theme.  Because of MLS’ relative newness to the sports scene, MLS fans have more “ownership” in the league’s success.  Unlike fans of the NFL, MLB and other mainstream sports, fans of Major League Soccer have real concern about their league and its place on the sports landscape.  Fans work hard to bring friends to games, introduce family to the sport and cheer for MLS teams in international competitions.  This personalized relationship to the sport lends itself to these same fans taking an interest in the corporate entities that keep the league solvent.  Moreover, because the relationships are promoted through means other than commercials (jerseys, signage, etc…), the names of these companies are always prominently displayed.panasonic

Some telling numbers from the survey (as reported by SBJ).   League sponsors such as VW, Gatorade, Pepsi and Allstate generally earned recognition scores in excess of 30%.  One major partner that fell below 30% was VW, at 28.5% .  However, among all sports/leagues, that 28.5% was second to only Chevy’s affiliation to NASCAR in the auto category.  AT&T”s relationship with the league was the biggest mover among all brands in the survey with almost a 16% year over year increase in fan recognition through its MLS partnership.   One final note, Visa’s brand recognition; “more than 44 percent of avid fans recognized the relationship, the highest rate of any of the league’s sponsors among avid fans.”

We will have more on this survey over the next few days.

 

Kaka, Ratings and More

milanYes it is true that we focus on the business of American Soccer here at footiebusiness, but when a transfer is so prominent that non-soccer fans are asking about it, it deserves a mention.  Real Madrid set a record with its record transfer purchase of Kaka from Italian Club AC Milan.  The $90 million transfer is approximately $15 million  more than than the $75.1 million transfer of Zidane to Real Madrid from Juventus.  The record had stood for almost a decade and now it has been shattered by the 27 year old Brazilian (although not shattering the record in Euros because of exchange rates).  For purposes of comparison, recall that the record transfer for an American is the $10 million paid by Villareal to secure Jozy Altidore’s services from New York.

From a business perspective, what makes these huge transfers interesting is the ripple effect.  AC Milan now has plenty of money to spread around to smaller clubs to purchase their rising stars.  In turn, these clubs will spend some of that money and down the line we go.  Interestingly, part of Kaka’s motivation for agreeing to the transfer is to help the financial stability of its old club.  Kaka had turned down a mid-season transfer to Manchester City for $100 million because he wanted to stay at AC Milan.  Now, because of the economic climate, he felt he could help his old club by leaving.  Interesting.

ESPN’s broadcast of the US/Costa Rica broadcast did not crack the cable top 20 last week (getting beat by Sponge Bob and John & Kate Plus 8 among others).  This is disappointing because US Men’s games tend to do well and the Costa Rica match was in prime time.  At the same time, the Sports Business Journal is reporting that MLS ratings on ESPN have remained flat this year at the .2 level.  For reference, this generally means just over 200k homes.  These numbers are disappointing, yet it appears that the new ESPN policy of changing nights for the MLS game of the week has had no impact on ratings  .2 has been the MLS rating for a number of years.

Finally, Toronto has announced its plans for Real Madrid ticket sales.  First pre-sale opportunities are going to season ticket holders followed by fans on the season ticket waiting lists.  Tickets will range from $140-$215 (Canadian), a steep price in a League where season tickets go for not much more than that.  There will be a small discount for season ticket holders.tfc Kaka will likely play in Toronto before Spain.