What: Michael Neuman, the EVP and Managing Partner at Scout Sports and Entertainment and a member of our new Sports Marketing Board, speaks to Portada about the MLS’s efforts to turn soccer into a major sport in the US.
Why It Matters: Football, basketball, hockey and baseball are historically the most followed sports in the U.S. But there is opportunity for soccer to gain terrain and draw investment from today’s biggest advertisers.
Four sports have traditionally dominated American sports: football, basketball, baseball and hockey. “There are two main reasons that put them there; their ability to aggregate big audiences, live, and their sophistication to collaborate with brands and their agency partners to build fully sponsoring offers and packages,” explains Michael Neuman, the EVP and managing partner at the specialized marketing agency Scout Sports and Entertainment, which is Horizon Media’s Sports and Entertainment division.
But soccer is catching up. “If anyone [in sports marketing] is overlooking soccer, they are making a huge mistake,” says Neuman.
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“You have to remember that the MLS is still a very young brand,” he said. Established only 23 years ago in December 1993, it is far behind the main American sports in terms of the maturity of their professional leagues. The NFL is 96 years-old, the MLB 114, and NBA 70. “It still has many years to go to catch up with where the other sports are,” the member of Portada’s sports marketing board adds.
As passion for sports teams is often passed down through generations, this means that “we’re still in the first generation of MLS,” says Neuman.
But while the MLS is young, it is as sophisticated as any other league in terms of marketing. “They do a great job offering brands with many touch points with many different assets,” Neuman notes.
If there is any doubt on this, you just need to take a look at the list of the league’s official sponsors, which includes Adidas, Audi, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, Heineken, Tag Heuer, The Home Depot, Etihad Airways, and more.
Tough Competition from International Leagues
On top of competing with other sports, the MLS must compete with other worldwide renowned soccer leagues. “There is also great soccer being played around the world, and so soccer fans are watching games from Germany, Spain, the Premier League, the Mexican League…,” explained Neuman.
This particular challenge is not shared with other American sports whose leagues are not eclipsed in size and popularity by their global counterparts.
“There is less of a desire to satisfy the need for football content or baseball content outside of the US, where the MLS is just one part of a larger soccer offering that comes from a global environment,” Neuman adds.
For sports marketers, soccer represents a great opportunity to reach both US-natives and the Hispanic market. “It is the type of platform that can really reach both, the general market consumer and the Hispanic consumer, more so than the other professional leagues that we have been talking about,” Neuman asserts.
But, to succeed in their soccer marketing strategies, Neuman believes that marketers must have knowledge of both the multicultural and the sports market. There is a need for more multicultural sports marketing executives in the US.
“The days of having a sports marketer building a multicultural sports strategy without a multicultural influence are over you can’t pull that off,” explains Neuman.
Neuman sums it up: “the soccer platform is as vibrant today as it has ever been and it’s only going to get bigger and better, and the audiences are going to continue to grow.”