SBJ/April 9 - 15, 2007/SBJ In Depth

The Beckham effect

Major League Soccer teams willing to share ticket sales information report strong gains over last year. Some examples as of mid-March, compared with a year ago:

Houston Dynamo: Up 27 percent
D.C. United: Up 25 percent
New York Red Bulls: Up 30 percent
Chicago Fire: Up 12 percent
Kansas City Wizards: Up 9 percent

How much was a bump from David Beckham? While other factors, such as new stadiums and competitive success, contributed to that growth, executives at each team agree that Beckham’s announcement provided an additional push.

Said Colorado Rapids general manager Jeff Plush, “The phone’s been ringing off the hook in a very tangible way.”

The Rapids are one of the few teams in the league to put tickets to their Los Angeles Galaxy game up for individual sale, and within 90 minutes they sold out all 2,000 seats, Plush said. “He’s clearly cut through the clutter for us,” Plush said. “It’s hard to quantify, to be honest.”

D.C. United saw similar success when it opened additional individual tickets to its home Galaxy game. The team sold approximately 4,000 additional tickets to that game in close to two weeks.

The New York Red Bulls designed a four-game pack that includes the opening game, a Thursday night game on ESPN2 and the Galaxy game featuring Beckham. That pack accounts for 20 percent of season-ticket sales, and the team anticipates a crowd of 50,000 when the British star plays at Giants stadium.

Columbus Crew general manager Mark McCullers said Beckham has created a spotlight that his staff has been able to take advantage of. Between season tickets, group packages and individual sales, Columbus has nearly sold out its Sept. 30 meeting with the Galaxy.

“It’s the most frequently asked question in the market right now,” McCullers said. “When is he coming? Is his wife coming with him?”

MLS fans are ready for Beckham’s arrival.

Teams also have seen benefits on the sponsorship side. Houston, which won last year’s MLS Cup, has seen a 40 percent increase in sponsorship revenue, according to Bryan Kraham, director of sponsorship sales. The team has brought on a church, a taxi company and an airport parking facility as partners.

Kraham said the growth is primarily the result of the team’s Hispanic fan base and competitive success, but added that some sponsors had expressed direct interest in Beckham. As a result, the team plans to offer title sponsorship for the Los Angeles Galaxy game and envisions a possible $30,000 to $50,000 investment — more than 100 percent higher than typical games.

Real Salt Lake general manager Steve Pastorino said after the Beckham announcement that his sales team suddenly began getting calls returned that had gone unanswered for weeks. “That’s intangible,” he said, “but it shows how people are taking a second look at MLS.”

No longer just a face in the crowd
The percent of Americans who recognize David Beckham soared from November 2006 through March, according to the Davie-Brown Index.

The rankings are based on responses of approximately 1.5 million online panelists who are asked, among other things, if they recognize a celebrity’s photo and name. Panelists are then asked to rate that celebrity along seven other attributes, on a scale of one to six.

The March results found that 60.2 percent of respondents recognized Beckham by name and face, up 27.2 points from November 2006.

How does Beckham’s overall DBI score compare with other celebs?

DBI Score
Charlize Theron
David Beckham
Dale Earnhardt Jr
Kenny Chesney
Eddie Van Halen
Source: Davie-Brown Index

Sold! on Beckham
Sales of David Beckham-related merchandise on eBay picked up following the Jan. 11 announcement that the superstar would be playing for MLS. Autographed jerseys have generated the highest prices, routinely selling for $600-$700. Sales have picked back up as the new MLS season approaches.

Week of
Dec. 22-28
Dec. 29-Jan. 4
Jan. 5-11
Jan. 12-18
Jan. 19-25
Jan. 26-Feb. 1
Feb. 2-8
Avg. sold price
No. of items sold
Week of
Feb. 9-15
Feb. 16-22
Feb. 23-March 1
March 2-8
March 9-15
March 16-22
March 23-29
Avg. sold price
No. of items sold

SportsBusiness Journal analysis of eBay data

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