Business

Soccer Business Set to Soar in North America and the World

Lionel Messi hoists World Cup trophy. (The Associated Press)

As summer and the longest day of the year in the Western Hemisphere approach, the anticipation of soccer fans worldwide reaches its zenith. Within a week of each other, COPA America and Euro kick off.

For the first time, Canada will send its national team to COPA America, the world’s oldest national tournament, first played in 1916. Thanks to a conjoining of the governing bodies of South America (CONMEBOL) and North America (CONCACAF), six teams from the north were allowed to qualify for the first time.

By virtue of a 2-0 win in March over Trinidad and Tobago, Canada secured a spot in Group A and will open the event with a game against Argentina June 20 in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a mesmerizing opportunity for Canada’s finest soccer players to face Lionel Messi and the reigning World Cup champions. All the games will be broadcast on TSN.

With the 2026 World Cup to be shared by Canada, the US and Mexico, COPA America is considered a test run, in addition to its importance as a marquee event. Exclusively held in the US this year, $72 million USD will be distributed to the competing teams, including $16 million to the winner, according to ESPN.com. Each team will receive at minimum a $2 million participation fee.

According to Ad Age, “Copa America is anticipated to be a defining soccer tournament for the Western Hemisphere, and the brands that participate.” It is an opportunity for the soccer business to truly explode into daily North American life.

Puma will be the official match ball of the tournament and Michelob Ultra the official beer. That brand’s ambassador is Messi, whose arrival in Major League Soccer in 2023 was the beginning of the sport’s new era in America.

An Ad Age-Harris Poll concluded that Copa America ranks third for brand equity growth among Gen Zers, a higher ranking than Coca-Cola and Toyota. This is the kind of statistic that stakeholders in the sport – especially advertisers – have been waiting for. The rise of soccer in North America is burgeoning. Copa America is the gateway to World Cup, which promises to be at fever pitch in two years.

While COPA tantalizes this part of the world, the entire globe will be transfixed on Euro 2024, beginning June 14 in Germany. According to Business Standard, the revenue generated from this event is expected to be upwards of $2.6 billion USD. Prize money awarded to the 24 national teams will total $360 million from the European federation, UEFA.

Each team will be paid a minimum of 9.25 million euros. The champion will win a further eight million, with potential to earn as much as 28.5 million overall. By comparison, FIFA paid prize money of $440 million USD to the 32 teams at the 2022 World Cup, according to Sportstar.

The absence of players from their professional club teams during Euro is perpetually a potential problem. According to Business Standard, “UEFA said it allocated 140 million euros to be shared by clubs releasing more than 550 players needed for Euro.” This cash allocation soothes some hard feelings while ensuring the best players are on the field representing their countries.

Forbes reports that “from a money perspective the Euros has grown beyond all recognition and into a cash-cow for the 55-member countries.” The profits are staggering for the 30-day event. Expanding the field from 16 to 24 teams in 2016 allowed for more games to be played and more tickets to be sold. Silly Season states that the competition taking place in Germany, one of the top 5 markets, “makes it more premium valued than the last 20 years of competitions.”

Beyond the extraordinary gate receipts that are guaranteed in German stadiums, the world will watch Euro ‘24 on televisions and computer screens. The marketing displays will include some of the most known global brands including Coca-Cola, adidas, Hisense and Vivo.

Dan Sproul, group director at sports media agency Fuse told Digiday “linear TV is going to be a key channel for brands to target, specifically around key matches.”

Much like the NFL’s hold on the North American audience, an event like Euro is captivating enough to return viewers to television sets at home, at friends’ and in bars and pubs. This event will be broadcast in Canada on CTV and TSN, undoubtedly holding robust audiences with morning start times.

Football Benchmark wrote that the 2021 version of Euro was “broadcast to a global audience of over 1.9 billion via television, streaming platforms and radio, in more than 220 countries and territories.”

The beauty of Euro and COPA being held concurrently is that viewers can glue their eyes to both. It is the soccer smorgasbord that North American fans, and marketers, have clamoured for. More soccer will be consumed here in the next month than ever before.

Follow: @dgontheroad