Golden Goal and Golden Opportunity: U.S. Soccer's Product Test
Americans have always had an intense love affair with their football. I emphasize their football - the kind with helmets, shoulder pads, and more advertising revenue than any other sport. For whatever reason, the world just never seemed to get it. Most outside our borders prefer their football - our "soccer" - and follow it on the whole with a passion most NFL franchises wish they could engender in part. In our country, sports-obsessed as it is, soccer has never been given much of a place at the table, even if it has gained some traction in recent years.
Part of the reason for that is cultural, but a major part of it is a lack of equity in the sport that is only produced by that most American of equity-builders: winning. And that is why marketers should carefully observe what happens to the sport's popularity after Landon Donovan advanced the U.S. Men's National Team in World Cup play.
Interest in the U.S. performance at the 2010 World Cup was already relatively high, thanks in large part to the promotional muscle exerted by official U.S. Soccer sponsors Nike, McDonald's and Gatorade, to name a few. These kinds of sponsorships produce eye-catching advertisements like this one, but if the product is still a dud, no amount of well-executed advertising will make a difference. In other words, if U.S. Soccer was still a loser, its brand equity - and the value of its sponsorships - would always be limited.
Which is why the marketers and sponsors with a stake in the brand of U.S. Soccer were probably exchanging as many hugs and high-fives as the players when the U.S. advanced to the next round. Now that the product has withstood a performance test, brand equity is at an all-time high. Don't believe me? Watch this collection of videos.
Sure, you could chalk up the exuberance to nationalist pride, but at the end of the day, that doesn't really matter. What matters is that people are investing in this team, and the brand of U.S. Soccer.
Marketing campaigns are always a lot easier when the brand can market itself. When you're trying to market a low-interest sport to a nation that places a premium on winning, there's no better way to build credibility than to show you're a winner.
Who knows, it may be enough to make it our football.
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