How Flamengo markets to American fans and what it means for the brand image of global sport
A boom in American soccer began with the 1994 World Cup, which was held here, and the subsequent establishment of Major League Soccer, followed by the United States’ success in the Women’s World Cup. The Men’s World Cup will return to the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026, providing more domestic momentum.
Whether there is room in the hearts of American consumers for even more football brands is a matter of debate among football marketing pundits. In general, they see plenty of opportunities for a Brazilian club to gain appeal from American Latinos and Hispanics, especially in cities like Orlando, Miami, New York and Boston with higher concentrations of Brazilians.
“When I think of Flamengo, I think of a burgeoning Hispanic and Latino community in the United States that is very interested in football,” said Jon Stainer, general manager of Nielsen Sports Americas, who is involved in the assessment. sports media and fan opinions. “Liga MX has capitalized on this very well with strong broadcast rights and co-creating competitions with MLS clubs.”
But with American football also growing behind a thriving MLS and a lower-tier league known as the USL also gaining a foothold in smaller towns, “the pie could get smaller,” said former Fred Matthes. DC United executive and founder of FM Professional. Football advice.
“Charlotte’s new MLS team drew 70,000 fans for their first game. This could make it increasingly difficult for overseas clubs to come and establish a market for themselves,” he said. the level of play in the American professional leagues is still lower than that of its international neighbors – Flamengo would “crush” an MLS team on the pitch, claims Fathi – the level of play is improving, as are things like development programs .
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea owe much of their reputation in the United States to marquee academies teaching football to American children, Matthes said.
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International clubs have an advantage over American league teams because they are not bound by regional marketing limits, or necessarily top-down league rules that govern domestic clubs, Brennfleck noted.
“If you’re the Dallas Mavericks, there’s an expanding circle around your arena, a radius where you’re allowed to get active with your partners. It cannot be a national platform by definition,” he said. “European clubs also have full control of their realms as a franchise: you control your players’ image rights, you control merchandising and licensing rights – all of these things are tools that international clubs have and that their American counterparts do not have.”
John Guppy, founder of football-focused Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing, said he was somewhat skeptical of Flamengo’s ability to be a major American sports brand. His company’s latest survey of American football fans, conducted in November, ranked Flamengo tied for the 32nd most popular football club brand in the United States (the top five, respectively, were Barcelona, Real Madrid , Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea).
“If you ask the average football fan how much Brazilian football they’ve watched in the last 10 years, the answer will be practically zero,” Guppy said. “In the United States, it’s a four-horse race: there’s MLS for obvious reasons. Liga MX is by far the most watched on television, and then you have the top European leagues: the Premier League and La Liga. All media investment is behind one of these four leagues.
Ricardo Fort, a former sports marketing executive for Coca-Cola who now runs a consulting firm called Sport by Fort Consulting, notes that the Brazilian league’s current U.S. TV deal, with Paramount Plus, is “very small “.
Millennials and younger
While social media and television provide the exposure teams need to grow internationally, the appetite to do so reflects new attitudes towards sports consumption, driven primarily by younger generation fans. and young football fans in general, Guppy said.
“There is a demographic map of football fandom, where you can draw the line at 40 and under,” Guppy explained. “If you are 40 or younger, you basically grew up with football. You had MLS and the international game was accessible to you. And if you’re over that age, you’re not. It’s a huge difference; everyone older than Millennials is really not part of the football demographic.
These young fans, who tend to follow the NFL and NBA in addition to international professional football, “love global narratives and they love star power,” Guppy said. “They are in love with the individual athlete. The NBA has demonstrated this exact thing. And when [soccer star] Neymar moves to a new club, fans will change interest.
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This phenomenon highlights some disadvantages of the commercialization of Flamengo, according to Guppy’s estimation. His star players regularly gravitate to Europe’s top clubs to pursue their dreams, “and that’s not going to change anytime soon”, he said. Flamengo’s roster includes a mix of very young stars and Brazilian professionals whose careers in Europe are over.
However, there is a movement underway to strengthen and sustain Brazilian clubs. According to Fort, interest is growing in creating a Brazilian league that would be something like the South American equivalent of entities like the British Premier League or the Spanish La Liga. Currently, Brazilian clubs are overseen by a national sports governing body similar to American football, and as a result its individual teams are “not as organized or professionally managed as those in Europe and the United States”, Strong said. He is involved in a group that aims to get an investor to buy 20% to 25% of the commercial rights to launch an independent league and provide the TV coverage he says is “just a fraction of what that she may be”. .”
American football fans differ from their European counterparts by having relationships with multiple clubs, Guppy noted.
“One of the things we constantly hear in our research is that if you ask people in England about their fandom, they’ll say ‘I’m a Southampton fan’. If you ask an American, they’ll say ‘I’m a football fan,'” he said. “They identify first and foremost with the sport, and then they’ll tell you about how those passions come to life. So they’ll tell you they’re from Seattle and that they like the Sounders. Their favorite player is Messi, so they follow Barcelona and now they are interested in PSG [Paris St. Germain]. The Premier League is my home because my kids watch it and so I gravitate towards Arsenal. They choose four or five teams on average with which they have an affinity.
7 digit goals
Without revealing what Flamengo is putting behind the effort to win, Sportfive executives have shared their big ambitions.
“Four years from now, we have a seven-figure goal for merchandise sales and a seven-figure goal for sponsorships,” Brennfleck said. The team is planning an American tour this summer.
Dortmund, who signed Sportfive in 2018, provide a potential plan. When their partnership launched, the club’s US Twitter account had around 30,000 followers. Driven in part by the engagement of an American player, Christian Pulisic (who now plays for Chelsea), that number rose to 2 million while outpacing follower growth and engagement compared to his peers in the Bundesliga.
Eventually, Flamengo would like to attract an American sponsor to leverage their assets in North and South America, although the club only recently landed a three-year main kit sponsorship with BRB, a Brazilian bank.