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The U.S. Soccer Federation, IMG and Nike are examining ways to increase interest in the U.S. National soccer team after the World Cup, according to USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand. The three organizations are looking to boost awareness of TV games "outside the Cup," which have traditionally drawn low ratings. TWI Senior VP Bruce Horowitz, the arm of IMG which will produce and sell the U.S. team games, has said "there's no rhyme or reason" behind the scheduling of non-Cup games, adding, "they just appear." Horowitz proposes to create games that "mean something," with matches played in the first three months of the year and sponsors putting up "prize money to create matches where players are more motivated." With ABC's TV rights to the U.S. team expiring this year, U.S. Soccer "has a long wish list" for its next partner, including a cable TV package for its women's team and the addition of virtual signage. U.S. Soccer may also insert 15-second TV spots during "natural breaks in game play" to allow for more advertising. Also under examination is whether U.S. games carried by Spanish-language TV networks are hurting the broadcast network numbers. For its part, Nike, which has a 10-year deal with U.S. Soccer worth about $120M, and is spending about $30-40M on its World Cup sponsorship, is looking to sponsor a TV show "meant to sell soccer stars to kids" (Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY, 6/2). WORLD CUP NOTES: Nike has designed a soccer-based theme park at the Parc de la Defense in downtown Paris (Michael Grange, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 6/2)....Canadian officials expect the World Cup to increase sales of sports-lottery tickets in that country. In '94, the World Cup drew more than C$3.1M in betting action for 52 games on Ottawa's Pro Line betting sheets. That marked an average of C$59,707 a game, which is "only lower" than the C$100,006 per NFL game betting average and the $89,171 per NHL game average (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 6/2)....In France, striking pilots have "grounded" Air France, "threatening disruptions" during the World Cup. In Paris, Barry James writes that the strike has "jeopardized France's attempt to use the World Cup to project an image of modernity ... and elegance." Air France had "pledged to provide 150 special flights during the first round of the Cup (INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE, 6/2). BRAZIL'S HERO: Brazilian star Ronaldo is profiled in DETAILS by Po Bronson under the header, "Ronaldo: The Phenomenon." Ronaldo has his own Nike clothing line as part of an endorsement deal rumored to be worth "at least" $25M over ten years, "by far the most of any soccer player" (DETAILS, 6/98). In Miami, Michelle Kaufman profiles potential break-through stars playing in the World Cup. Kaufman: "Who will emerge as stars this summer? The likeliest candidate is Ronaldo" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/2).