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Soccer may not be big on TV, but it's huge in social media



December 18, 2013
One of the biggest events worldwide is taking place in Brazil next year. The World Cup, a beloved championship soccer competition that takes place every four years, will be here in the summer.

But even with interest in soccer at an all-time high in the U.S., it's still unlikely to be a sport to fully catch on.

I think one of the main reasons is that the underdog story may not play out so well for the national U.S. soccer team during the World Cup. "Fair weather fans" of a sports team will not cheer for a team that is unlikely to make the second round.

With teams selected earlier this month, the U.S. has been matched against Ghana, Portugal and Germany in the first round.

If you're not aware, this is a punishing group for the U.S., which includes a game on June 26 against three-time champion Germany.

So why has soccer not been fully embraced in the U.S.? I mean, it's a competitive game, filled with nonstop action and passion. Most people, when they are younger play the game and even draw an appreciation, albeit short lived, for the sport. In addition, it's a game that doesn't require a lot of equipment to get started.

I think the biggest opponent to soccer is television. The networks know that for about 90 minutes, there won't be a commercial break. Unlike NFL football, basketball and baseball, the game of soccer is played nonstop for two 45-minute halves. Particular championship games, where a winner must be crowned, go into overtime and even penalty kicks. But over the years, a lot of strides have been made. ESPN shows more soccer games than ever and entire channels are devoted to the sport on cable and satellite.

In comparison, a study of four NFL broadcasts and similar estimates by researchers found that the average amount of time the NFL football action is in play on the field during a game is about 11 minutes, according to the Wall Street Journal.

So a typical NFL football game breaks down to 67 minutes of players standing around, 17 minutes of replays and three seconds of cheerleaders. And yes, 11 minutes of actual playing time with 75 minutes of commercials.

There's a commercial appeal, and television stations can monetize the game and heavily promote it. The average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad hit $4 million this year and an audience of 108 million watching.

In comparison, the last World Cup had 3.2 billion people watching worldwide and 715 million just for the final match.

So where is there an opportunity to monetize soccer? Social media.

Increased discussion on social media will show advertisers just how passionate fans can be, and TV stations will follow. The potential to boost youth teams and college-level soccer is key to the survival and love for the game.

Earlier this year, Twitter began to hold auctions for advertising packages for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Ad Age reported.

Twitter is selling promoted trends to the highest bidder.

That means trending topics will be hotly promoted for a full day. A promoted trend in the U.S. typically sets companies back $200,000. Whoever wins the auction will be able to take over promoted trends in 50 countries for a day at an estimated value of $600,000.

When Major League Soccer (19 teams) begins to leverage their social media into two screens, meaning being mobile and able to travel in people's briefcases, pockets and handbags, we'll begin to see the sport strengthen.

The recent explosion of NASCAR is a perfect example that Americans have room for more than the four major sports (NHL, if you're still thinking).

With YouTube's game highlights and other creative forms of cross-promotion, this could make audiences fall in love with soccer, and this will be one World Cup to watch, wherever you are.

And with ownership of smartphones and tablets soaring, the number of people watching and interacting on two screens will be particularly high.

This is where I predict we can see an all-around game changer.

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