As we reach the end of 2012 and the locked out NHL continues to do more brand damage to itself, the global sport of football…the one with the round ball known here as soccer vs. the NFL kind…continues to show that an infusion of American sports business into some traditional club thinking can go a long way. This past week there were three major moves that again showed how smaller the global soccer world is, all involving American influence that as recent as three years ago would not have been possible.
On Monday, Norwich City FC announced that they had retained Philadelphia-based Front Row Marketing Services, to help them grow their global commercial brand rights and revenue. Then on Wednesday AS Roma, one of the most powerful global soccer brands at least off the field announced that they had hired American Italo Zanzi as their new president, and Thursday the large betting company Gala Coral announced a deal with US-based Bloomberg Sports to create and use new analytic analysis programs to give their legal betting customers a better chance and winning. While there probably will be more than a few learning curves with the three moves…FRMS although highly successful in the US has never worked with a Barclays Premier League Club before, Zanzi is a sports business lifer but is learning Italian, and Bloomberg Sports’ greatest business success thus far has been with MLB clubs not fickle bettors around the world…it shows that the trend to be more global and forward-thinking to find new revenue streams is continuing in soccer, with more moves to come.
“There is no secret that if you stay locked in to your traditional fan base and way to do business you will be left behind these days,” said Dr. Harvey Schiller, whose lifelong global experience in the space has been with the IOC, Turner Sports, the USOC, the IBAF and now as an advisor to America’s Cup, to name a few places. “Soccer and sports like cricket are learning how to attract the global consumer and the American dollar very quickly, so bringing in experts who know how to market to that fan base with the means available today is very smart. American teams and brands are doing the same thing with partnerships in sport outside the US, so we are becoming more global in our thinking and that help everyone who is on board to grow. Those who aren’t are going to lose fans and dollars, but the ones who understand the value will benefit exponentially with their investments now.”
All three of the business moves this week clearly have an eye on the potential of the future. Norwich City, which moved to seventh in the Barclays Premier League last week, is a venerable club which has seen the success others have had in spreading their brand globally, and feel with the help of FRMS and their long tentacles into the US with brands and stadia and TV, can find new inroads that clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United and Arsenal have enjoyed. Roma, with an American ownership group, started to bring their brand to a wider audience with a summer tour and sees the potential not just for bringing the club to the States (they will train in Orlando in 2013), but also for assimilating American brands into Serie A to reach a new level of European soccer consumer. The Gala Coral relationship that Bloomberg Sport announced showed that where legal, the betting audience wants more and more information and will use that information to engage even more with their club and with their betting partner of choice, and it is also an interesting hedge for when sport gambling eventually becomes legal in parts of the world, like the US, where it is currently not allowed.
So while Major League Soccer in the States takes a respite, soccer with American ties continues to flourish around the world. The global game through business becomes stronger, and America’s place in the game continues to grow across the continent. Great news for soccer, bad news for the sleeping NHL, which is getting passed by as “The Beautiful Game” captures more interest.