SBJ/Aug. 11-17, 2014/Events and Attractions

For ICC, good vibe and better results

Guinness brand manager Jon Urch skipped the suite and headed for the lower bowl of Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium before the recent Liverpool FC-AC Milan match. Moments before the game began, more than 40,000 Liverpool fans raised red-and-white scarves and belted the team’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

“I never imagined I’d see that,” Urch said. “There was such a great vibe. Such a great feeling. It was pretty impressive.”

The moment stood out in Urch’s mind as an example of what distinguished this year’s Guinness International Champions Cup, a 13-game tournament featuring eight of Europe’s top soccer clubs. In all respects, the second edition of the tournament exceeded expectations by attracting more spectators and reached more viewers

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worldwide. It also included the most-attended soccer game in U.S. history, a match between Manchester United and Real Madrid that drew 109,318 to Michigan Stadium on Aug. 2.

“We had more games, we had more attendance, there was so much more consumer exposure, and it looks like we sold a lot of beers, so we’re happy,” Urch said.

See also: Execs weigh in on soccer’s big summer in the U.S.

Guinness wasn’t the only one pleased with this year’s event. In its second year of owning tournament organizer Relevent Sports, Stephen Ross’ company RSE Ventures saw attendance increase 30 percent, TV rights revenue rise 700 percent and sponsorship revenue increase 300 percent. The event also served as a vehicle to help create a new media distribution business called Catalyst Media Group, which increased distribution overseas from 100 million households last year to more than 600 million households this year.

Liverpool FC and its fans converged in Charlotte, the second-best-attended tournament site.
The increases in revenue were offset by some increases in costs, which were a result of going to twice as many venues and securing more TV and sponsorship rights from participating teams. But RSE Ventures co-founder Matt Higgins said the tournament was profitable for the second year.

“We did extremely well, and you know how hard it is to make a complicated business like this successful,” Higgins said. “The growth was strong.”

The success of the tournament bolstered Higgins’ confidence that RSE Ventures is ready to expand it to Asia and Oceania next year. The company signed a partnership with Australian sports marketing agency TLA Worldwide to run its first edition of the International Champions Cup in Asia next year, and it has begun scouting potential locations in China, Indonesia and other markets.

An Asian edition of the tournament will operate concurrently with a U.S. one.

“There’s tons to improve upon [in the U.S.], but we’re now ready to take the next step and go to Asia,” Higgins said. “We want to do that because teams want to take the tournament to Asia. We need to operate globally.”

The tournament’s attendance increases this year came on the heels of the most-watched World Cup in U.S. history. Large crowds turned out in Ann Arbor, Mich., (109,318), Charlotte (69,364) and New York’s Yankee Stadium (49,653). The attendance there was offset by smaller crowds in Toronto (10,603) and Philadelphia (12,169).

The attendance increases helped boost merchandise sales for clubs participating in the tournament. Liverpool FC Chief Commercial Officer Billy Hogan said the team saw a 200 percent increase in e-commerce and U.S.-related sales over the past month from the same period last year. In Charlotte, for example, long, weaving lines were evident at virtually every merchandise stand, even outside the venue.

“A lot of that is impacted by the tour,” Hogan said. “Not only are people buying at the venue, but they’re going online to the shop and buying there as well.”

TV viewership in the U.S. delivered mixed results. The most-watched match averaged 726,000 viewers on Fox and featured Manchester United-Real Madrid on Aug. 2. Fox Sports 1 delivered its highest viewership when it averaged 504,000 viewers for the ManU-Liverpool final on Aug. 4. The lowest-rated game averaged 21,000 viewers on Fox Sports 2 and featured Real Madrid-AS Roma on July 29.

As RSE Ventures looks toward next year, it will need to finalize a title sponsorship for its tournaments in the U.S. and Asia. Guinness was in the last year of a two-year deal and is in discussions with RSE about returning. RSE also could consider bundling both tournaments and selling a single sponsorship for them.

It will face the challenge that many of the teams it showcased this year, such as Liverpool, will opt to skip the U.S. and go to other markets next year. But it stands to benefit from the recognition after this year’s World Cup that the U.S. market is embracing the sport, said John Guppy, founder of Chicago-based consulting firm Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing. That should help as it looks to lure other big-name clubs to the U.S. for the third edition of the tour.

“In the past, some [soccer clubs] thought there was something here but weren’t convinced,” Guppy said. “Now every one of those brands look at the U.S. and see a 10 out of 10 opportunity.”


Year No. of teams No. of venues No. of matches Total attendance
2014 8 13 13 642,224
2013 8 7 12 492,575
2012* 11 8 9 338,483
2011* 13 14 14 584,484
2009* 4 6 6 336,813


Date (Day) Venue (city) Matchup Attendance
July 24 (Thurs.) BMO Field (Toronto) AC Milan-Olympiakos 10,603
July 26 (Sat.) Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver) AS Roma-Manchester United 54,116
July 26 (Sat.) Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium (Berkeley, Calif.) Inter Milan-Real Madrid 62,583
July 27 (Sun.) Heinz Field (Pittsburgh) AC Milan-Manchester City 34,347
July 27 (Sun.) Soldier Field (Chicago) Liverpool-Olympiakos 36,170
July 29 (Tues.) FedEx Field (Landover, Md.) Inter Milan-Manchester United 61,238
July 29 (Tues.) Cotton Bowl (Dallas) AS Roma-Real Madrid 57,512
July 30 (Wed.) Yankee Stadium (New York) Liverpool-Manchester City 49,653
Aug. 2 (Sat.) Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) AS Roma-Inter Milan 12,169
Aug. 2 (Sat.) TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis) Manchester City-Olympiakos 34,047
Aug. 2 (Sat.) Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Manchester United-Real Madrid 109,318
Aug. 2 (Sat.) Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte) AC Milan-Liverpool 69,364
Aug. 4 (Mon.) Sun Life Stadium (Miami) Liverpool-Manchester United 51,104

* Event was played as the Herbalife World Football Challenge. Its name was changed for 2013 after the event was purchased by RSE Ventures.
Note: The tourney was not held in 2010 because of the FIFA World Cup that year.
Compiled by Austin Karp, SportsBusiness Daily

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