In The Mo’Ment: USA Soccer Advertisers, Adopt a Team!

I am embarrassed. Are you? America, with all of the money we allocate to soccer in this country, can’t produce a team that’s good enough to make the top 32 to qualify for the World Cup? The country that beat us, Trinidad and Tobago, has less of a population than the city of Philadelphia. Without getting too much into the politics of why we simply suck, there is also a looming issue that we as marketers must be aware of to stay ahead. What the heck do we do with all of the advertiser support and media commitments that were banking on a large and engaged US audience watching the World Cup this June? The companies I speak of aren’t small potatoes. I’m talking McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Visa, Budweiser…to name a few. These companies were relying upon the ability to leverage the USA Soccer experience in Russia and create campaigns that utilized the emotions of World Cup to engage with the millions of Americans who would be leaning forward to root for their beloved team. Not anymore. How about Fox Sports? They invested $400 million for the broadcast rights betting on a profit from the U.S based advertising support. Not anymore. Nike, who invested millions to beat out Adidas in creating official merchandise for Team USA only to hope to make their investment back as the USA team propelled forward. Not anymore.

What do all of us do now? Do we walk away and write off the investment? Do we look to other sports immediately so we can distract ourselves as well as the fans to focus on another marketing story that we can monetize? Do we just celebrate the sport of soccer in all of its beautiful forms, close our eyes and wish for consumer resonance? All of the aforementioned options are short-sighted and not promising.
 
I have an idea. Adopt a team. More than anything else, the United States and the companies born here represent freedom, dream pursuit, opportunity and, more than ever, are global. American audiences identify and consume rich, inspirational, illustrative sports stories — from underdog teams and superstar players, to teams that inspire entire counties. The World Cup embodies this in spades and gives reason for American audiences which are diverse and global to root, cheer, and engage with sports stories that are not born of this country. The U.S. and its advertising community that have already placed their bets on World Cup success should pivot these investments to identify and support these stories during this globally viewed platform. Akin to the 1992 Olympic Games where Lithuania’s basketball team was adopted by the Grateful Dead and wore tie-dyed warm up t-shirts, there is an opportunity to create emotional stories that could easily carry more consumer interest than a U.S Soccer team that frankly has none. The Lithuanian basketball team became global darlings and even though they lost by 52 to the U.S — their story mattered and was recalled by hundreds of millions of people around the world.
 
I say to our U.S World Cup advertisers that are currently licking wounds… stop! Quickly mine for the stories that have always been the pillars of sports lore. Call your marketing agencies and ask them to quickly create a plan that will truly engage with audiences and build a story of compassion, excitement and hope. Isn’t this the reason why we do this in the first place? As marketers, don’t we wait for opportunities like this to happen? Trust me, there are many stories out there. Take the chance!
 
More to Come,
JMo

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