By Kevin Koczwara
Club soccer is ruled by money. Manchester City looks like it’s on its way to buying a title after opening up it’s rich (super-duper rich) owner’s pockets during the last few transfer markets. Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski outlined in their book “Soccernomics” how money influences the trophy cabinet.
Part of making money is making your club or team have a brand. Liverpool has a great brand, one of the best in the world. There is always room to expand that brand, though. Liverpool needs to keep looking at options to bring in new fans, young fans, and to keep the brand moving forward. To keep the money coming in so it can continue to compete, and continue to be great.
The tours of Asia in the summer help. Winning helps. Being in the news helps. Having the best players helps. Having marketable athletes and coaches helps — even if they’re polarizing individuals. Liverpool has all that, plus a great tradition. But one thing the team lacks is a real U.S. presence.. Hopefully American International Juan Agudelo training with the squad in the coming months will improve that.
Tapping Into America
Manchester United, Inter Mila, AC Milan, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid and other teams have tapped into the American market over the past few seasons. They’ve all made trips over to play against the best the U.S. has to offer, or they’ve played in tournaments against one another. All those clubs have delved into making money and making a presence in one of the world’s fastest growing soccer markets. It’s paid off in merchandise sales and increased value in their respected brands. Liverpool needs, especially with its connection to Boston and the Red Sox — one of the world’s strongest brands, currently — to jump on that bandwagon and make a strong push to the U.S. There is a market. And it has just started being tapped, so its ripe with potential.
Celtic played Sporting at Fenway Park, and the atmosphere was fantastic. The streets were filled with green and white before the game outside of Fenway Park. The bars were full. People were singing. Jerseys sold. Scarves went fast. Beer poured. It was proof that this game has a strong presence and a devoted fan base in the U.S.
When I travel to cover games for The Soccer Guys, I see that dedicated fan base. I went to Philadelphia this summer to cover Real Madrid’s game against the Philadelphia Union and the crowd outside of Lincoln Financial Field (where the Philadelphia Eagles play) was awe-inspiring. The Philadelphia Phillies were playing across the street — working towards a Pennant — and there was a concert next door at the Wells Fargo Center. But, the crowd for the friendly matched all that excitement (and was part of a terrible traffic mess). People outside were decked out in their Union jerseys and their los Blancos jerseys. People in the U.S. know Real Madrid, even if they aren’t soccer fans. People know Manchester United, even if they don’t follow the Premier League, because of the recent trips across the pond to play the MLS All-Stars and other friendlies in the states. Liverpool needs to get that same brand recognition in the U.S. There are great fan clubs — like LFC Boston — and fans across the country. But the club doesn’t have that same kind of pull in the “richest nation in the world.”
That’s where having Juan Agudelo, America’s next great soccer hope, training with the Reds at Melwood becomes a great chance to market and get the brand out to American fans still looking for a team to support in the Premier League. I’m not saying sign the 19-year-old. I’m saying the team shouldn’t miss out on another chance to bring the brand across the Atlantic. Use the press from American papers, especially those in New York City. Put Agudelo out there. Create a buzz. Maybe create a jersey just because it’ll sell. This is more than just a training stint, this is a great chance to enhance the brand.
Global soccer is run by money. This is another chance, a free chance, for Liverpool to continue to expand and grow its brand. Hopefully the team knows what it has. Hans Backe didn’t, and his New York Red Bulls bowed out from MLS Cup sooner than expected, again.