What: Telemundo may have benefited from the U.S. not qualifying for FIFA World Cup, reportedly selling 90% of its inventory to date.
Why it matters: At least some of those sales are from companies that might have gone with Fox Sports’ English-language broadcasts.
Most of the talk in the U.S. about FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) has been the absence of the American team from the contest for the first time since 1986. And while that may be working to the detriment of U.S. English language rightsholder FOX Sports (@FOXSports) it may be having the opposite effect for Telemundo (@Telemundo), which will broadcast the games in Spanish. With power players like Coca-Cola (presenting postgame show sponsor), Sprint (halftime) and Volkswagen (primetime show presenting sponsor) on board, the broadcaster has announced a near sellout of its ad inventory.
The international soccer business is indeed booming, and FIFA is leveraging that for everything it’s worth—and more. In an attempt to enliven the North American bid, a combined effort by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, for the 2026 tournament, with selection looming next month, the N.Y. Times this week reported that organizers have offered visas to all visitors attending the games, regardless of where they are coming from, as well as a minimum US $11 billion profit for the sport’s international governing body, which has been plagued with corruption for decades. How that fits into the current political climate and U.S. laws is still to be determined.
With media rights reported at US $425 million for Fox and US $600 million for Telemundo, they’ll need every bit of ad sales to help make up what has been projected as tens of millions lost when the U.S. didn’t qualify.
It follows that a significant portion of that US $11 billion would flow from marketers who would be eager to capture the fans of many nationalities already in the three North American countries as well as those who would otherwise have only a passing interest in the tournament. With the 2026 World Cup expanding to 48 teams and 80 matches, there would be more inventory for all types of sponsorship, from stadium signage to broadcasts to special events.
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But what if Morocco, the other bidder for 2026, gets the games? At 5 hours ahead of Eastern Time (8 hours ahead of Pacific), broadcasters would face less of a challenge than this summer in Russia (between 7-9 hours ahead of ET) and Qatar (7 hours) in 2022, but clearly having the games in this hemisphere would make broadcasts more palatable and sponsor activations logistically simpler and more targeted to North American consumers.
All is not lost for FOX in its World Cup coverage starting next month, as interest in the event is still high among the growing soccer fan base as well as first- and second-generation Americans with roots in Russia, France, Brazil, Germany, England, Poland, Japan and other countries rooting on their native national squads among the 32 qualifiers. 23andMe (@23andMe), a DNA testing site, is an official Fox World Cup partner, and has a campaign tying in fans’ ancestry with teams they can support. With media rights reported at $425 million for Fox and $600 million for Telemundo, they’ll need every bit of ad sales to help make up what has been projected as tens of millions lost when the U.S. didn’t qualify.
Cover Image: FIFA World Cup 2014 (credit: Danilo Borges/Portal da Copa)