World Cup Has MLS Looking Up: With Television Revenue Increasing and Millennials Packing Stadiums, Major League Soccer Sets Its Sights on American Fans

By Heine, Christopher | ADWEEK, July 14, 2014 | Go to article overview

World Cup Has MLS Looking Up: With Television Revenue Increasing and Millennials Packing Stadiums, Major League Soccer Sets Its Sights on American Fans


Heine, Christopher, ADWEEK


Since rolling out in 1996, Major League Soccer has struggled to gain prominence in the U.S. But thanks to World Cup fever, the spirited U.S. team and its hero Tim Howard, the energized league may finally get the bump it needs to gain traction with sports fans. The momentum will help fuel MLS' comprehensive TV deals with ESPN, Fox and Univision that will bring in $790 million over eight seasons--or 90 times more per year than in 2007. The networks are giving MLS, which suits up 31 World Cup players, enviable weekend time slots. But while things are looking up, MLS chief marketing officer Howard Handler knows that scoring points with fans won't exactly be a free kick.

Despite all the World Cup excitement, many fans of other sports here in the U.S. contend it's boring. How can you change that mind-set? Some people in their 40s, 50s and 60s still scratch their heads about the sport; although the numbers that we saw for the U.S. men's games, as well as just World Cup in general, where you have millions and millions of people, would suggest [the sport] reached everybody in America. And I think that, generationally speaking, time is on our side. A good bit of our organic fan growth has been with millennials, who are coming of age and having kids.

MLS launched an ad campaign called "Here" on Sunday. Tell me about it. It celebrates the fact that everything World Cup that you experienced over the last few weeks--the passion, the great moments, the stars--is all here in Major League Soccer. The effort will be supported by our television partners, all over [paid and earned] digital media and expressed locally through our member clubs.

Channel surfers may have been surprised to find MLS Sunday afternoon games on ESPN. But ultra-modern and packed arenas in places like Portland, Ore. …

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