Thursday, January 11, 2007

Beckham to LA Galaxy

Today's big news focuses on David Beckham's impending arrival on American shores.
He's coming here, so brace yourselves for the publicity machine that arrives with him. You've been warned.
Beckham confirms LA Galaxy move.

He's the most popular athlete in the world. He's arguably the most dynamic football player around. He's not the most talented and he's not even a starter on Real Madrid, but he has movie-star good looks and tremendous appeal. He transcends football. He's a fashion icon, a pop culture idol and more recognizeable than most world leaders.

So what's he doing here in the United States, the arid prairie of football?
Money, that's what. $250 million over 5 years would make anyone cross shores. (Granted, Major League Soccer isn't paying him that outright. The bulk of his contract comes from ownership of his image rights, which he's shared with Real Madrid in the past. He's getting close to 90% image ownership according to published reports. So he's not getting that much from the league here. But he's still making out ok due to his enormous endorsement contracts.)

But let's not discount his arrival as merely a stunt. His presence in Major League Soccer (MLS) gives the league instant credibility. Beckham is a household name. Housewives in Peoria know who he is. And now that he's playing here, maybe those housewives will want to see him play a game or two. All of a sudden, attendance rises. With that comes some exposure on sports shows like ESPN's SportsCenter and write-ups in magazines like Sports Illustrated.

This is all about publicity for the league. The money spent is worth it. Beckham gives instant credibility to a league looking for identity. And he's young. He's 31 and coming here in his relative prime.

It's a win-win situation, in my opinion. The MLS soaks up the exposure, Beckham makes a boatload of money and the sport gets a much needed dose of publicity.

The only downside could be the dramatic rise of ticket prices. Someone has to pay for this contract. Although it's been shown in study after economic study that scarcity of seats, not big-ticket free agents cause ticket prices to go up (read this for more on that: Tighter supply of tickets, and continued popularity of game, driving ticket price increases far more than millionaire players' salaries., the average fan may see the dramatic rise in prices as their being boxed out. That makes going to a game a treat, not something you can do many times a year.

Case in point: the National Hockey League. Attendance continues to be good, averaging about 13,000/game. But the game's a ratings disaster on TV. Hardly anyone watches it. And in the United States (actually, the entire planet), TV is where the money is.
Let's hope the novelty of Beckham doesn't wear off after a year and that people return again and again to watch football.
The fan base will increase, the pool of players will expand and be technically better and the league will flourish.

Am I overreaching here? Maybe. But this could be the ripple in the ocean that causes football to make it in this country. One major move here by a world-class player could have remarkable payoffs down the road.

1 comment:

Cesar said...

I think your blog is AWESOME! I wish you would write more and maybe get a job with MLS, because your vision is amazing!!
I love you!