When most Americans think of great sports events, football, baseball or basketball's championship games may spring to mind first. But they shouldn’t overlook the international soccer extravaganza that kicked off in Brazil on Friday.
Several recent studies suggest that Americans are falling in love with soccer, the game that most of the world calls fútbol.
Since 2010, the number of American adults age 18 or older who have attended a major soccer match has increased 87 percent, according to Nielsen, while the number of Americans who have “watched, attended or listened” to a major soccer tournament has increased by 32 percent. And these emerging U.S. soccer fans also have cash to spend: Nielsen found that they plan to spend $88 billion on cars in the next year and $4.4 billion on groceries each week.
TV network coverage of soccer in America has also increased 43 percent since 2010, Nielsen reports—suggesting that Americans are watching it more, and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are expected to explode with soccer-related mentions.
A recent Harris poll found that 62 percent of people who follow fútbol pay attention to which companies support their favorite teams and players.
According to a recent Harris Interactive news release:
One in 10 Americans (10 percent) says soccer (men's and/or women's) is a sport they follow, putting it on the same ground as men's tennis (with 10 percent following that as well). This is relatively small when compared to the half of Americans who follow pro football (51 percent), the nearly four in ten following baseball (37 percent) or the three in ten who follow men's college football (30 percent). However, it's worth noting that interest in soccer is stronger among younger generations of Americans (11 percent Millennials, 16 percent Gen Xers, 6 percent Baby Boomers, 5 percent Matures), which runs inverse to the trend seen for most sports, with older Americans typically more likely to display an interest.
So, what does Americans’ growing love of soccer mean for small businesses?
Because sports organizations are protective of their trademarked terms, and some marketing can be prohibited by the organizations and sometimes even local regulations, you need to make sure you're not making a false commercial association with the sporting event. While only official sponsors are allowed to reference the event in relation to any product or service, that doesn’t prevent small businesses from trying to use the event's popularity to drive sales. Retailers can promote soccer-related products and gear or create products that soccer fans would want to buy when they watch the games. Restaurants and bars can host events to watch the games; in New York City, there are 22 bars and restaurants offering soccer-related specials. See the FIFA website for more information about hosting the games.
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