Who Financially Benefits From US Advancing In The World Cup?

Landon Donovan celebrates after beating Algeria in their 2010 World Cup Group C first round match in Tshwane/Pretoria.
Vincenzo Pinto | AFP | Gerry Images
Landon Donovan celebrates after beating Algeria in their 2010 World Cup Group C first round match in Tshwane/Pretoria.

Landon Donovan scores in stoppage time against Algeriathis morning and the United States advances to the next round in the World Cup.

So who are the big winners besides the US team themselves?

ESPN/ABC: Even though ESPN’s John Skipper told me he was confident ratings would increase if the US did not advance past the first round, the network is still seen as a winner in this, as the additional US games will provide a nice boost in the ratings. How much will ESPN benefit financially? It’s tough to tell. They have a huge team of reporters out there (read: significant costs) and they only had a very small amount of inventory to sell across all its platforms.

“I don’t think there’s any question that there will continue to be records broken in terms of the number of people watching on all our platforms,” Skipper, the network's executive vice president for content, said after the game in a conference call. “It’s going to increase the momentum and the interest.”

Through the first 14 matches, ESPN and ABC have delivered an average crowd of 3.35 million viewers, marking a 64% increase from the same period in 2006, when the networks drew 2.9 million fans.

“I, at one point, predicted we would be up 25 to 50 percent and it was overwhelmingly suggested by colleagues that I love that I should be careful and not set expectations that we might not meet,” Skipper said. “I’m not really a believer in always playing it cautious. I think you sometimes generate your own momentum and enthusiasm and so this is a little bit beyond where I thought we’d be.”

Skipper said during the US-Algeria match on Wednesday morning more than 1.7 million people watched online on ESPN.com’s GameCast application and as many as 633,000 people watched at one time on ESPN3.

Nike: It’s hard to get people to buy the US National Team jersey given that you can’t really break it out every weekend, but Nike at least has some more time to convince people to buy one. Unlike some other countries, there are a lot of people who don’t have these things in their closets.

Sports Bars: Pushing the World Cup for another week definitely helps the sports bars. Matt Shendell, president of Paige Management Group in New York, which manages The Hill and Ainsworth bars in Manhattan and Dune in the Hamptons, said the World Cup audience at his bars is added revenue that they wouldn’t normally bring in. Shendell also said that the soccer crowds have skewed more female than any other sporting event, exposing new people to his establishments.

Beer Brands: The $100 billion US brewing industry is suffering. Ad Age noted last week that, out of the top 30 beer brands, only four — Keystone Light , Modelo Especial, Yuengling and Pabst Blue Ribbon — experienced growth over the last month. What’s key, according to Henry Schuhmacher, editor and publisher of Beer Business Daily, is how many more games the US plays during the week, when large amounts of beer aren’t typically consumed. The next game for the US happens to be on Saturday.

Landon Donovan: It’s not like Donovan is going to get a ton of deals from this, but he’ll at least become more relevant with the companies that already sponsor him, including Gatorade , Nike, Claritin and AT&T . In the first week of the World Cup, Hitwise said that Donovan received the third most Web searches of any player behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.

Major League Soccer: Who knows whether the MLS can muster a bump from this, but at the very least, they are getting America to sample soccer in record numbers. “There’s no doubt we can build on this,” MLS president Mark Abbott told me. “Sixty million people watched the US-England game and it wasn’t just because it was an event to see, it was to watch our game.” What isn’t in doubt is the fact that the MLS is at least in position to capitalize more than ever before. Abbott says the Seattle Sounders are averaging 36,000 fans a game and its Toronto team has sold out every game for the last three years. The asset value of teams, confirmed by expansion fees, have grown from $7.5 million in 2005 to $40 million this year.

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