Galaxy Lit Up By European Star
Topic Introduction to Marketing
Key Words Celebrity endorsements, sports marketing, Nielsen ratings
InfoTrac Reference CJ157354894
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News Story 

English-born soccer player David Beckham grabbed U.S. headlines recently by signing a contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Sports commentators say the move elevates the Galaxy's chances of becoming a championship squad and will make Major League Soccer (MLS) more popular with American audiences. Professional soccer has never captured large viewership in the United States.

Though the MLS is a perennial favorite among American youth, it among the least watched U.S. professional leagues. However, a landmark TV rights deal, among other developments, suggests a brighter future for the sport. Fox Soccer Channel and the ABC/ESPN channels will air games of MLS, European leagues, Latin American leagues, and the World Cup. The increased exposure is likely to change the image of MLS as a 'niche' sport.

Beckham's international popularity and personal charisma are expected to lure new fans as well. Beckham's fame derives from many sources: his good looks, his wife (a.k.a. "Posh Spice," of Spice Girls fame), the movie named after him, and his football-playing prowess. Armed with a new five-year $250 million contract, the iconic star looks to spread his fame in the U.S.

"This is a very, very memorable day in the history of our sport...something we will look back on as we continue to build our league for generations to come," said MLS commissioner Don Garber. According to David Carter of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, Beckham and his wife present the perfect marketing storm for celebrity-conscious Southern California and the nation. "You're delivering a global sports brand and a pop icon," Carter said.

In coming to the U.S. late in his career, Beckham follows a path set in the mid-1970s by Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia, who were paid millions in an attempt to make the North American Soccer League a force in the U.S. Those players failed to ignite the sport in the '70s, but Los Angeles Galaxy owner Anschutz Entertainment Group believes Beckham's star power will be bright enough to light up MLS permanently this time around. The Galaxy, which has averaged about 22,000 fans in the 27,000-seat Home Depot Center, sold more than a thousand new season tickets in the wake of the Beckham announcement.

Questions
1.

How well does Major League Soccer perform in the television ratings, according to the article? Do you think Beckham's popularity will change this? Explain.

2.

What important marketing developments have given MLS owners reason to believe that the time is right for American soccer?

Source David Barron, "Spend it like Beckham: Armed with a massive financial deal, the iconic star heads to L.A. hoping to take U.S. to 'another level'," Houston Chronicle, Jan 12, 2007 pNA
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