By Brad Rees, CEO, Mediacells
Soccer, football, footy, togga, kickball – the Game of Two Halves has many entries in the sporting lexicon, with Anglo-Saxon keyboard warriors often berating rooky fans from across the pond about the naming of parts.
In the context of examining the game’s emerging popularity in the U.S., I’ll be referring to soccer from here on in.
Soccer is not one of the top three most popular sports in the US by some distance by any consumer research panel benchmark.
Stateside, soccer is competing in the attention economy against titans of sport American Football, Basketball, Baseball and Ice Hockey.
However, the growth potential for soccer is huge and bodes well for 2026, when North America will host the Men’s World Cup across USA, Canada and Mexico.
The Soccer fanbase among younger Americans (18-29) has increased significantly in the last couple of quarters, briefly eclipsing, albeit fleetingly, the next cohort up (30-44) in Q2 2022, according to YouGov’s latest sports sector report.
The exciting news for advertisers is the unique fan engagement potential that soccer has over other U.S. homegrown sports. Soccer displays the greatest diversity, with 40% of the USA’s fanbase identifying as people of colour, according to fellow business intelligence company Morning Consult.
According to Morning Consult, nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults identify as soccer fans, but the sport still lags behind the “Big Four” in popularity.
Today’s England-USA game has the potential to rocket U.S. awareness and appeal of the FIFA World Cup if current indicators are anything to go by.
Rumours that Fox Sports is doubling its advertising prices for the live broadcast of the Eng v USA meeting from $300k to $600k for a 30-second commercial spot talks to the value of the sport in purely commercial terms.
Fox’s U.S. ad revenues during the tournament in Qatar is estimated at a massive $125 million and to put that in context – Budweiser’s annual sponsorship of the World Cup has an assumed value of $112m, according to Yahoo Sports.
At a human level, any U.S.& UK crossover claims big audience attention.
When Prince Harry married American Meghan Markle in 2018 it attracted 29 million viewers in the U.S. while Harry’s older brother William’s marriage to English rose Kate Middleton in 2011 yielded 23 million US eyeballs.
Culturally, soccer is gaining momentum in the States and winning the hearts and minds of US viewers via the unexpected hit in America of Ted Lasso, the streaming comedy about a naively optimistic American football coach drafted in to run underachieving London soccer club AFC Richmond.
Streaming giant Apple+ is leveraging the positive sentiment towards the show in a billboard campaign across the U.S. where Ted sends words of advice to US World Cup players ahead of the England clash.
On Monday, Ted’s number two, Coach Beard, shared a 20-second Twitter video encouraging the national team,
“Even though we are far away, we are right behind you. We are cheering you on because we believe,” Beard emotes, shouting, “USMNT BABY!”
Sentiment was not however kind to LAFC earlier in the week when the Los Angeles club celebrated their new sighing Gareth Bale’s equaliser for Wales against the USA on Monday.
‘Read the room bro,’ advised one fan.
The World Cup has the largest eyeshare of any sporting event with 95% of sports fans aware of the World Cup, according to Nielsen.
That conspicuous 5% of sports fans who are unaware of the FIFA World Cup will to some extent comprise north Americans.
After tonight’s performance that will surely diminish.