Why the World Cup is a Big Deal

by Braden Kelley

strategic innovationAfter living overseas in Germany and England and now coming back to the United States, I have a completely different perspective on Football (or Soccer as we call it in the United States).

With the World Cup in full swing, I thought I would tackle the subject of Football and why it is the most popular sport in the world.

Reason #1: No Commercial Breaks

Watching a televised American Football game in person, it is clearly evident how much advertising slows down the pace of play. At university I always hated going to a televised game, because just when the game was getting intense and the crowd was getting into it, they forced the other team to turn the ball over. Then nothing happens for two or three minutes while someone peddles wart remover or deodorant spray.

new profitsWatching a soccer match, even a professional match, play never stops for advertising. Advertising is ever present at professional matches (on player and referee jerseys, on the sides of the pitch, stadium naming rights, etc.) but it doesn’t stop play. You get 90 minutes of uninterrupted action, with television commercials at halftime.

Reason #2: Accessibility

All you need is something to kick around. You don’t even need a ball. Some professional players have grown up playing with a ball of newspaper, rags, socks, or whatever else they could bunch together into a ball shape.

Reason #3: Talent Showcase

Unlike most sports, playing on the national team is an honor and a duty. There is no question whether a top flite player will play on the national team. Professional clubs don’t prevent players from playing and players don’t refuse. Why? Being selected for the national team raises the value of the player, and the revenue to the player and the club (think ticket sales, but also WORLDWIDE jersey sales). Playing well on the national team can have a huge impact in the marketability of a player.

Because the top players play on the national team regularly, you don’t see “Dream Team” fiascos, like the United States basketball showings at the Olympics and World Championships. These national football teams are teams with real chemistry, genuine intensity. Something is missing on all-star teams thrown together at the last minute. American basketball players don’t seem to understand that their game is now a global game and that playing on the national team and playing well could elevate them to worldwide celebrity status.

business strategy innovationAnyone not familiar with David Beckham, know this, Real Madrid paid Manchester United about $45,000,000 for the rights to his services. This is because he is worth more than that in jersey sales, ticket sales, and media attention for the club, and this is over and above the $10,000,000 per year that Real Madrid now pays him in salary. Interesting fact, a car dealer in ASIA recently paid Beckham $18 million last year to go on a 10-day tour promoting its cars. Asia? I thought Beckham played in Spain. Isn’t that kind of far from Spain? How did an English kid playing in Spain, make more money in Asia in one year than playing football in Europe? Oh yeah, he plays on the national team.

Reason #4: Suspense

Some people may say football (aka soccer) is boring and that there is not enough scoring for Americans to be interested in it, but let me say this, it’s kind of like baseball. If you are a fan of one of the two teams playing, with every passing minute that the score remains close, the suspense grows more intense because any goal becomes more important and less likely to be answered. In football, often it only takes one goal to win, so the excitement of every chance is intense. It is that knowledge that a single goal could win that makes some of the most skilled players in the world muff easy chances that a school boy could make, and creates even more excitement because there are no sure goals.

What do these four points add up to? The most popular sporting event in the world. One that empties the streets of entire countries for two hours at a time when their home side is playing. One that closes entire businesses that would never otherwise shut up early. One that has citizens of every country in the tournament believing at the start, that anything is possible. One that, hopefully, NBA players in particular will learn from. And, if we’re lucky, will lead to NBA players caring more about making the national team than the all-star team.


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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a Social Business Architect and the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on embedding innovation across the organization and how to attract and engage customers, partners, and employees.

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