Archive for the ‘The Business of Soccer’ Category

Two Cents: Never Tarnish Your Brand, Union

Can't believe the team borne from fans alienated some

First of all, I get it Philly Union. I do.

And on the surface, actually getting Bimbo to sponsor your jersey is a coup. It’s probably a pretty lucrative deal and the Bimbo brand carries weight…some places.

However, Bimbo as a sponsor of important clubs does not extend into the conscience of most fans in the  United States. Coupled with what the jargonistic word itself means to those that dwell in the fifty and it’s a double whammy.

First, as we spoke about in our Portland-Seattle post a few months back, it’s imperative to always partner with a strong brand. The best way to build a brand is to associate it with a stronger brand. (Why do you think online you see all those, “As seen on CNBC” or similar icons?)

Bimbo, while a major company, and perhaps a strong brand south of the border obviously does not carry the same value here. In fact, the “Bimbo” moniker is largely emblazoned on bread products in Mexico whereas in the states, on Wonder bread, the “Bimbo” moniker is nearly if not completely non-existent.

Secondly, and I say this part tongue-in-cheek and certainly loosely, this has a whiff of what Volkswagen encountered in their bid to target the Hispanic market. I’m saying the Bimbo-Union association is in the same realm–it’s not spot on.

Is it offensive for the jersey of an upstanding soccer club with great grassroots success and backing, and with a good part of that grassroots backing–women, to have a jersey sponsor that references what it does? I’m on the fence, but leaning toward tumbling over into “yes.”

For the non-soccer goers who will see a female Philly Union fan wearing the jersey, you’re inviting ridicule.

…why do you think Barcelona sponsored charities for so long on their kit–oops bad example.

Note: One note that I just included in the comments: I’m not talking about marketing or not marketing to the Hispanic demographic. I’m talking about not alienating any demographic.

The (Self-Indulgent) BBC Report on FIFA

Have a view of this BBC documentary and ponder a few direct and indirect questions, including:

• Precisely what has the United States needed to do, promise and deliver to navigate their way to their current bid position?

• Is it okay to bring World Cup 2022 to the United States in a Machiavellian way of “by any means necessary?”

• And indirectly, with Sunil Gulati running the show, will 2010 perhaps be considered a stunning failure for the USSF president who won re-election to a four-year term in February if the US does not gain the 2022 World Cup (in combination with the Bob Bradley debacle and the CONCACAF tourney re-alignment)?

(TSG’s thoughts in that case? Yes)

A Coup And A Smart Hedge: MLS, adidas

Say what you will about MLS’s laissez-faire attitude towards CONCACAF refs because the MLS front office just hit some paydirt.

adidas North America head Patrik Nilsson

Announced this morning, a new deal with adidas, at $200M per for 8 years. That’s $25M per year and it represents–adjusted for inflation–a shade more than a 33% percent premium on the old deal.


Sponsorship dollars are hardly falling from the vine these days and to re-up with a large premium says a lot of about adidas’s continued commitment to the domestic game.

It is not without a good foundation for adidas mind you. The company has sponsored MLS since its inception and recently said that its World Cup sales beat expectations.

Earmarking some of the funds for development academies and youth is smart from both sides–for adidas to increase their grassroots penetration of the brand and for MLS to have some financial backing to get the teams started.

Our guess also is that adidas is looking to cement a deal with MLS now to gain some of the uptick in interest that will come with the increased soccer coverage from major networks and possibly hosting a World Cup.

When fans talk about growing soccer in the United States, this is the kind of deal that should make you smile.

One more interesting note for all of those fans who wish their team gets a new place to play, see Don Garber’s quote on the deal:

Our extension with adidas is a major statement by an internationally respected brand that MLS is increasing in value and that our commitments to stadium construction, strategic expansion, player development and improvement in the overall quality of play are playing dividend.

You can read the entire press release here.


• Perhaps some negativity on this deal around kit design from what we’ve read this morning. Two notes: Unscientifically, I find adidas kits to be less expensive on average than Nike kits, and secondly, put the money to use somewhere else instead of refurbishing kits.

The extra dollars here should be used to grow MLS and grow the fanbase, not necessarily to focus on the diehard fans with new kits. That may be a bitter pill, but it’s what is best for the domestic game to grow.

Media Biz of Soccer: SB Nation, Softball, More…

Some minor happenings in the media business of soccer:

Um, that's not a soccer ball for sure...

• Just throwing this one out there: Men’s Softball.

I’m trying to work “soccer” into that comment, but really can’t.

Add another sport that will compete with MLS for viewership and production support. Softball.

The MLS…A (that’s MLSA) just announced their formation in June of this year in hopes of growing a league.

It is estimated 40M play softball in the United States (International Softball Federation) compared to about 25M for soccer (FIFA).

Softball should be a walk-in-the-park for ESPN. They have the production understanding from baseball and women’s softball, and they can follow their blueprint for poker by focusing on “the average Joe” and letting the personality of said “Joe” come through just like in poker (think: Phil Helmuth, Phil Ivey).

Finally, suds and home improvement sponsors would be waiting at the door the day the coverage began.

• If you write your own soccer blog on one of the global platforms, you may want to take a look at what’s happening in the burgeoning world-of-sport web platforms.

SB Nation is catching up in readership to Bleacher Report whilst the former heads of are about to make it a three-horse race.

The former, SB Nation, secured $8M in funding just about a year ago now and is starting to develop ties with ESPN. Their overall readership across their sites is about 1/3 that of the Bleacher Report.

Bleacher Report is aligned heavily with CBS and recently swapped out their CEO (bringing on the head of Yahoo Sports to take the company to the proverbial next level).

I would give SB Nation the leg up here–not in terms of functionality or technology–but, if you’re a soccer writer, in terms of supporting and growing the soccer coverage.

No regular soccer coverage on CBS.

One more note here: for the life of me I can’t understand how Google News labels Bleacher Report and SB Nation stories news, while meatier fare gets relegated to the “Blogs” service.

Martino sports a much different 'do these days...

• Watched some of Kyle Martino’s show on Fox Soccer Channel. Your thoughts?

One comment as the show kicks off:

You can’t stay stagnant with the studio. I would have thought Fox Soccer would have sunk a little bit more money into a set that looks very much like Fox Football Fone-In.

It’s important to break from the set of a former show–especially one in the same time slot–to show commitment to the new show, and to show advertisers that you are sinking money into the new show.

You think FSC–which has their contract with MLS coming up this year for renewal–would have opened up the billfold on the set a little more.

You can see out previous interview with Kyle here.

• An update on our Spurs finances piece, Tottenham Hotspur is one of only five teams in the EPL to sell out their season. (Arsenal, Chelsea, Blackpool, Manchester City and Spurs.)

Now it’s up to Dan Levy to manage those finances and add enough talent to make Champs League play a reoccurring theme, today’s stumble against the Young Boys non-withstanding.

• Had a good Twitter discussion with Tripp Mickle (a solid columnist for Sports Business Journal with a seriously awesome NASCAR name) on MLS and the networks. I disagree with him, but he has fair points.

His Tweet that got me a little fired up (since media is supposedly part of my bailiwick):

Is MLS eyeing its own network in the future? Don’t rule it out. The league hired CSTV and Classic co-founder Brian Bedol for media advice.

Our discussion:

@trippmickle Have a hard time thinking that MLS at present, could build out/manage production talent, infrastructure, promotions, etc. $$

@shinguardian No doubt an #MLS net would be years into the future, but as the league continues to expand, it’s not out of the picture.

@trippmickle That’s kind of very open-ended. :> I would suggest it wouldn’t happen for 15 years, thoughts?

@shinguardian Tough to predict. Maybe around a ’22 World Cup in the U.S. Maybe out of necessity in ’14 after Univision /ESPN rights end.

My thoughts here:

Tripp and I are on the same page. MLS and an MLS network is likely about double-digit years away. So for now, TSG rules it out…in 7 years, maybe time to start considering it. Extended thoughts:

» First, it can’t possibly outlay the infrastructure (production resources, talent, ad sales, equipment, etc.) that is necessary to fire up their own network when the league is not in stable financial straits just yet.

» Second, the MLS advertising base is not there. It’s not like they can actually sell the product just yet and just extend an advertisers media plan to “television and internet.” Much easier to do TV when you merely extend a media buy to television.

…General rule of thumb in media is you need about a 1.0 rating to attract major branded advertisers. For perspective, MLS regularly does about a .2 with a high of .39 earlier this year when Landon Donovan returned to the Galaxy for a July 4th game after the World Cup.

• Speaking of watching the ‘tube: A .5 rating for USA vs. Brazil…that…and the revenue…is why you hold that friendly. Nothing to sneeze at there. Solid numbers for the USMNT, if not a solid performance.

• And yes folks, we’re due to do a sequel to this piece…coming soon. As a note, it looks like ESPN is following a little of our schematic….’cept on the web front (minus Jeff Carlisle).

Hanging Up The Boots

A kickette favorite, Raul was the heart and soul of Real Madrid for over a decade.

Brett Favre is going through his annual “Will I? Won’t I?” retire charade. Frankly, it’s a joke and I’ve given up trying to figure out what he’s getting out of this media circus The actual impetus for this article, though, was not Favre, but last week’s dual moves of Real Madrid legends Guti and Raul to Beşiktaş and Schalke 04 respectively.

Both players were incredibly successful with Real. They both won the Champions Leagues three times, La Liga multiple times (Guti 5, Raul 6), Copa del Rey multiple times and the Intercontinental Cup (Winner of the European Cup versus the winner of the Copa Libertadores).

They both played over 116 games combined for their national team (Raul with the bulk of the appearances), though both were dropped from the Spanish squad before the team’s recent success.

Individually, Raul has accomplished more than most teams. He is Real’s and Spain’s leading scorer (though Villa is closing in on his national record). He owns records in appearances for club, numerous nominations for World and European player of the year (finishing second and third in 2001). He won the Pichichi twice as well as countless other individual awards.

Both are 33-years-old and in the twilight of their careers. So why not hang up their boots?

Fiery and passionate and at times odd, Guti was a midfield genius for Real.

It’s not like they’re moving onto bigger clubs, nor will playing at these clubs add to their illustrious club careers. With no disrespect to Beşiktaş and Schalke 04, both whom are big clubs in their countries, but they are not Real Madrid.

When I saw the derby match between Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid in April, both players came on midway through the second half. Obviously a clear sign that they were no longer the focal points of the club they had spent their entire footballing careers with, it would have seemed that this summer would have been a perfect time to retire.

Within 24 hours, both had signed new contracts with new clubs.

Is it about the money? This I refuse to believe. They both played their careers at one of the wealthiest clubs in the world, and their good looks ensured that they weren’t short on individual sponsorships.

So maybe it’s for the love of the game…but then what of one’s legacy?

Not quite Mike.

Very few of the best athletes retire on top of their game. They almost always believe they still have what it takes to perform at the highest level. A lot of those that do retire get restless and un-retire with varying degrees of failure and success. Michael Jordan being a prime example of a failed attempt as he un-retired for a second time to play with the Wizards. His first foray from retirement led to 3 more championships with the Bulls.

Both Joe Montana and Jerry Rice had mediocre seasons after leaving the 49ers. While still considered some of the best at their positions, it was a little sad to see them not at their greatest toward the end of their careers. By the same regard, even though he had been at the twilight of his career, Larry Bird retired after winning Olympic Gold. Pete Sampras, too, retired at the top, after winning his 5th US Open and at the time a record 14th Grand Slam title.

In soccer, arguably the best player ever to play the game retired from international football at the age of 29. After winning his third World Cup, Pelé retired from international football by taking a lap of honor at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City after beating Italy 4-1 in the final. There can be no higher point in one’s career in which to call it quits.

Pele retired after scoring in the 1970 World Cup final

Pelé continued to play for Santos for a couple of years and then came out of retirement to play for the Cosmos where he was largely successful and had a rather extravagant last game.

More recently, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, retired from international and club football. He’s had an illustrious career, winning many titles and trophies in different leagues, and the Champions League with Barcelona. He captained his country to the finals of the World Cup, and scored a brilliant goal in the semis to get them there. They sadly lost in the finals, but GVB knew it was time to go.

He no doubt could have gotten offers from many clubs or could have played in Dubai or MLS to earn a little more money, but he chose to end his career on top. Kudos to him.

What makes Guti and Raul’s decisions even more perplexing to me, is that there is no attachment or sentimental value to either of the clubs they chose. They played their entire career in the country of their birth with one club, so why Germany and Turkey?

Some players who are surplus to requirements at the end of their careers, but still want to play the game, go “back home.” Claudio Reyna, after a successful career in Scotland and England, came back to play his last year with the Red Bulls (he was born in New Jersey).

Others, like Thierry Henry, want a different (and easier) pace to end their careers and want to test themselves in a different market. Henry, aged 32, having won pretty much everything football has to offer, is going to end his career (having already retired from international football) in New York.

GVB's wonder strike helped send the Dutch into the finals

He has made no secret of his desire to live in the Big Apple and for him it will certainly be a less hectic scene than what he was used to. Speaking perfect English, he will be a great ambassador for foreign players in the MLS (something which Beckham failed to do, though he did pave the way), and the US is also great avenue to concentrate on his many charitable causes.

So I guess Guti and Raul are still playing as they still love the game. They could have retired as Real Madrid legends and will probably always be remembered as such. They instead decided to continue their stories elsewhere. I REALLY and TRULY hope they both win their current domestic championships and prove to everyone, and most importantly to themselves what we all know: that they were great players and now it’s time to hang the boots up. Favre…take note!

Spurs Going Beyond Yankee 2000’s Blueprint

I’m finishing this piece as Portsmouth has taken the field against D.C. United Saturday wearing long-sleeve borrowed kits from their MLS competitors in searing East Coast summer heat. Going to make my point a tad easier.

Not likely...

Our first “The Business of Soccer” column in a while and sadly, for some, it’s been overrun by the Yankees-bid-for-Spurs rumor.

The Daily Mail–a newspaper in much the same way that the National Enquirer is aspiring to be CNN or a moped is considered a motorcyle–speculated earlier that the New York Yankees are interested in buying into the Premiership through club Tottenham Hotspur. Gotham tabloid, the New York Post, refuted the claim the next day.

The rumor was refreshed to conscience with a question in the Sports Guy’s mailbag on Friday. Thankfully, TSG offers more coherent analysis here on the topic.

Quite simply, the Steinbrenners buying into any Premiership team would be a boon as Steinbrenner management typically translates into using all means necessary to great a competitive and popular–financially-speaking–team.

Modric: One of the early names in Tottenham's assault on Top Four talent...

However, a look at Spurs shows a recent history where the club has departed a mid-table malaise and invested heavily in taking the team to the next level.

First, let’s take a look at the supposed offer and history.

The rumor is the Yankees have leveled a $653M USD bid for Spurs. That’s a value that represents a major premium to the current value of Tottenham but probably accurately reflects the potential upside of the next half decade.

Forbes recently valued Spurs at $372M that down from $450M USD (we’ll do all comparison in dollars in this column) in 2009. Revenue as well dipped from $228M in ’08-’09 to $186M in 2010 The bid is about 3 times revenue.

The one-year drop for Tottenham however was systemic as the global economy stripped anywhere from 10% to 20% off the value of EPL clubs over the past year. For comparison, clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea hover around $300M in revenue annually.

With Champion’s League revenue forthcoming this season, it’s safe to say that the Spurs value will return to $450M or trump that figure with more in the offing. The Yankees rumored bid would be fair value for an owner that wanted to hedge against the Spurs current trajectory.

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Is He Worth It?

Jean Marc Bosman started it all

Joe Cole signed a four-year contract with Liverpool today. It’s been rumored that he will be making about 90k pounds per week. The transfer, however, was free. He’s 28 years old and in the last 18 months has been injury-prone. Often thought of as the most creative English midfielder in the past 8 years, his stock has dropped considerably since the ’06 World Cup in Germany. So the question is, “Is he worth it?” and what makes a player worth “it” these days?

In the US, free agency in baseball, basketball, football, etc. (the soccer equivalent is called a Bosman), is the main form of players moving from club to club. Often they do trades, but the majority of the time the club from which the player leaves does not get reimbursed.

In the soccer world, free agency is much rarer. A player is either signed to an extension, offered a new contract, or sold to another club within 18 months to a year remaining on their contract.

When a player is sold, for say 20 million pounds, the club receives that money. The player (actually his agent) then negotiates his own personal wages. This information is public, but rarely the focal point of the news surrounding the transfer.

Will Joe Cole and other potential signings keep this Nando in red?

So is Joe Cole worth it?
In this case yes, very much so. This is a very similar situation to United signing Michael Owen last year. The big difference is Liverpool expect a lot more out of Cole then Ferguson did from Owen.

Cole is going on the downside of his career, but his skill cannot be denied. A rising star with West Ham, he transferred to Chelsea as they began their recent dominance in the league. He was one of the stars that brought the first of three recent titles to the London club. He also cemented himself into the England side providing a creative spark that had been missing since Gascoigne left.

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