Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Musings on a Beckham vs. Brand X Rivalry

I like David Beckham and Ron Paul. Both have comprehensive talents and strategies for succeding in their fields of endeavor.

But both are getting drowned in hype.

I'll concentrate on Beckham now. I've already noted my concern about huge praise for the press conference. And I'm not the only one.

Take Randy:

[T]his is the week that David Beckham makes his debut with the MLS's L.A. Galaxy....

Hopes are that Beckham and his $250 million contract will be the savior of soccer in the United States. The truth is that soccer is and will always be, at best, the 7th most popular professional sport in this country behind the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL, NASCAR and the PGA Tour. That's just a sports fact of life that soccer enthusiasts are going to have to come to grips with.

Now, that won't deter the MLS from doing everything they can to promote their sport, their league and their new star. I just think their efforts are going to ultimately prove futile.

Shaun echoes the sentiment:

I’m not going to get excited about an over the hill European star who decided to come to the paparazzi capital of the world with his snotty looking wife. I’m not going to run out and buy Beckham jerseys because quite frankly, I think this whole thing is going to be a dud.

Both Randy and Shaun argue that, despite any amount of marketing prowess, MLS is going to remain a distant cousin to several existing leagues, including MLB, NFL, NBA, and NASCAR. They also have some other points which I encourage you to read.

Since I read Randy's post first, I asked him a question which reads, in part:

[W]hat if soccer had two stars and developed a rivalry that captivated the sports world? Boxing...seems to do well when there is such a rivalry (Ali-Frazier), and doesn't do well when it doesn't.

I also cited Magic-Larry as an example of a rivalry that increased the popularity of a sport.

Randy responded:

[T]he problem with boxing is that the sport hasn't had a decent rivalry since the Ali-Frazier era which was, what...30 years ago? Yes, there was the train wreck intrigue that surrounded Mike Tyson, but aside from that, nothing. Boxing is a dying sport and is quickly being replaced by Ultimate Fighting.

As far as whether having two stars and a rivalry would help soccer, it might. But I think it would take 10+ years, a dozen stars and four or five large market rivalries to give the sport some credibility. U.S. credibility that is. As we all know, the sport is dominate in other parts of the world...I just don't see it cracking a spot in the Big 6 anytime soon.

There are some musings about a possible rivalry between the Galaxy and San Jose's 2008 expansion team, but unless a miracle occurs, an expansion team isn't going to have a strong, marketable face to lead a rivalry challenge.

Another issue that would need to be addressed would be the compensation issue. Unless you have a home-grown rival to Beckham, you're going to have to import someone from Europe or South America - someone who is used to a much larger paycheck than five million dollars a year. Obviously promotional efforts will increase the take, but it takes a lot to put such a deal together, even when the wheels are greased.

One other issue - is Beckham truly over the hill? He made a difference in several Real Madrid games this spring, and most sports acknowledge that a grizzled veteran often has enough knowledge to execute a spectacular play against inexperienced youth. But, hey Vern:

Is he over the hill – not yet, but he['s] looking down the other side of the hill right now. The number of games he has played and the intensity of the games he has played are catching up. The little niggling injuries just do not heal as fast....His coach with the Galaxy, Frank Yallop, is very good and he understands what it is about. The trainer Ivan Perieria is also very good, he will have his hands full keeping him healthy.


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