SBD/March 1, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLS Shifting Marketing Focus This Season Following Departure of David Beckham

Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski won last season's MVP award
It was "impossible to avoid conflating" MLS' "unprecedented marketing push" with the offseason departure of former Galaxy MF David Beckham, according to Brian Straus of SPORTING NEWS. While Beckham "lifted soccer's profile" in the U.S. and Canada, MLS "remains a niche product." MLS teams "matter in their local markets," but TV ratings ... remain poor." Getting a fan in K.C. to buy a ticket to a game at Sporting Park "is one thing," but getting that fan to watch a FC Dallas-Earthquakes on a Saturday "is another." Meanwhile, for MLS players "who aren't on billboards, Q ratings are low." Most of the players being "marketed in Manhattan by MLS are relative unknowns." Earthquakes F and reigning MLS MVP Chris Wondolowski "was one of them," and he likely could "walk unnoticed through most American sports bars." But MLS "hasn't withered or withdrawn." Instead, it is "trying to step up its game with the 'March,' an ambitious campaign that sends a clear signal." MLS CMO Howard Handler said, "Most people agree that David was a catalyst. ... But he was part of a constellation of stars and the big developments in our league as he was moving on." Straus wrote there is "no more Beckham smart bomb, so now the attack plan must vary." The league's "March To Soccer" marketing campaign is a "multi-event, multi-platform initiative designed to highlight the MLS stadium experience, the athletes and the league's embrace of technology." There "are no obvious hooks this season -- no celebrity players and no new teams or stadiums" for the first time since '04. Meanwhile, MLS' TV rights deals "expire at the end" of next season. Whether MLS Commissioner Don Garber reaches his goal of the league reaching elite status by '22 "might depend significantly" on upcoming TV rights fees (, 2/28).
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