Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Earnhardt And Beckham: Your Email Replies (and mine)

I get mail. Here's some of it with my responses back:

From Randy Sheridan:
I couldn't disagree more with your opinion that (a number change for Dale Earnhardt Jr.) would be good. A lot of fans are disheartened to learn that he will no longer be in a red Bud #8 next season. I do not drink the beer but will miss seeing that car synonymous with only him, in my mind. And I'm sure there will be several times next season where I'll see it fly by the screen and I'll think there goes Earnhardt. Dale's fans, however, want to see him keep that #8. It's the same as any other sport, you don't want to see your favorite athlete change their number, regardless of that person changing teams or not. Growing up, Nolan Ryan was by far my favorite baseball player. Had he ever changed numbers I would have felt the same way then as I do now about Dale Jr. keeping the #8.

Randy: I stand by my prediction. A new number and a new sponsor will lead to the biggest year of merchandise sales for “Little E.” By the way, in an interesting twist, Earnhardt didn’t win again on Sunday. He’s still 0-for on the year and now only has two wins in his last 93 starts.

And from Charlie Riley, former Chicago Fire (soccer team) marketer:
The problem with Beckham is what you said. He's not a goal scorer, except on set pieces. The correlation a casual fan will make doesn't translate to other prodigy successes. Soccer is not a high scoring sport, and for a US born fan, they cannot appreciate the skill and patience involved, similar to abysmal NHL rating (except I'm from Buffalo, one of a handful of US markets where TV NHL ratings are in the black). While a Lebron can cause excitement dropping 40, even if Beckham sets up three goals a game, a casual fan will expect him to score four goals a game and be larger than life. This is the negative aspect of him arriving in the States.

However, I think the coup of bringing him over is brilliant marketing-wise. The league has never seen this much attention, both sports-based and pop culture, towards the sport. It got people talking, even if it was curiosity. The way they announced his deal as $250 million was a smart move; they included sponsorship potential in that figure, so anyone seeing that on the ticker is going to discuss, when it was partially made up. Making him the largest contract ever, in theory, is a good move.

I love soccer, and the product is getting better nationally, and the league, while the most definitely inflate attendance numbers, looks to be on the right way up. While Becks is not the savior, he at least got them on the map a little, it may get some non-fans to convert, but I agree, the total will not be spectacular.

My take: It’s good getting on confirmation from an insider. Next year, you’ll easily be able to get tickets to Galaxy road games. They won’t even be sold out.

Questions?  Comments?