It’s well known that soccer isn’t the most popular sport in the United States. In contrast to Europe and the majority of Latin America, basketball, football and hockey attract the most followers in the U.S. — as much in the actual stadiums as on social media. However, in the past decades there’s been an important surge indicating soccer’s rise in mainstream American sports.
Part of this growth has come from bringing established European and Latin American stars to the MLS or the NASL. Among the most well-known examples we have the signing of Pelé by the New York Cosmos in 1975 or Eusebio’s jump-around career in Boston and Las Vegas. If we’re looking for more recent examples, there’s the arrival of the German Lothar Matthäus to the New York MetroStars (the current New York Red Bulls) in 2000 or the notorious signing of David Beckham by the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007.
When the ball got rolling this year in the MLS, we had other important names from the soccer world on American soil. The most recognized was Kaká, ex-player of AC Milan and Real Madrid. The Brazilian, 2007 Ballon d’Or winner and world champion in 2002, is the celebrated signing of Orlando City SC, which competes in its first season this year.
Kaká’s success isn’t only on the field either. The Brazilian treasures more than 20 million Twitter followers and more than 30 million fans on Facebook, where only Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi surpass him. His arrival in the MLS makes him — by a large margin — the most popular player in the league and will exceptionally increase the league’s reach that until now had Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan as its main superstars, two athletes who recently hung up their cleats.
One example: After Orlando City SC’s first match, the post with the most engagements of those identified with our BrandSpotter™ was a photo of Kaká celebrating his first goal with the Florida squad. The club’s principal sponsor, Orlando Healthcare, had thousands of engagements thanks to the picture.
Englishman Frank Lampard and the Spaniard David Villa reinforce New York City FC, the other new franchise in the US league, while in the NASL (yes! the NASL is also on Blinkfire!) we can enjoy players like Raúl González (New York Cosmos) or Ronaldo (Fort Lauderdale Strikers) . Again, the role of these players won’t be limited to their athletic performance. Villa, for example, has more than 16 million Facebook fans, and Ronaldo has almost eight million.
Think of what the social media reach will mean for sponsors of New York City FC or Orlando City that these international stars wear their brands. Imagine the power these clubs will now have to negotiate these sponsorship contracts, or the power the actual players will have to negotiate with their teams. Thanks to Blinkfire Analytics, it’s now much easier to measure the real impact and get a return on investment from teams, players or brands on social media. Start your free trial today to unlock the future of managing sports media.