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Pitch Stars Just Kicking It

MLS All-Star Game Boosts English-Language TV Audience by 3.31x YoY

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Broadcast
MLS
Social Media
Sponsorship Valuation
Published 
September 13, 2022
 | 
6
 min read

The beautiful game has historically been an afterthought in the American sporting landscape, drawing significantly less attention than other team sports including football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. However, the tides appear to be changing. Soccer fans are spawning across the U.S. thanks, in part, to increased access to international competitions and European club football as well as pop culture sensations such as Emmy-winning comedy series Ted Lasso. But perhaps more importantly, Major League Soccer has commanded a larger audience by virtue of improving its on-field product and expanding into new markets throughout the country. The league which began with ten teams — whose rosters largely comprised American-born players — roughly a quarter-century ago now boasts 28 clubs and a wealth of international talent. Six teams have been added in the last five years alone, including Charlotte FC before the start of the 2022 campaign, and St. Louis City FC is set to join the league next year. Last month, the best current players across MLS met for an All-Star Game on August 10 in Minneapolis, where a 26-man team – representing 11 nations – squared off against the best players Liga MX had to offer. It marked the second straight year MLS All-Stars played against a squad from their neighboring domestic league, and the matchup ensured elevated interest from a wide variety of soccer fans stateside. We used MVP’s omnichannel software to examine viewership figures from the exhibition and explore how the MLS and its teams marketed the event on their social media channels. Among the most notable findings was a 2.2x year-over-year overall viewership increase coinciding with a broadcaster shift for the contest.

ESPN Scores Hat Trick of Viewers

The 2022 MLS All-Star Game was won by the MLS team by a final score of 2-1 over its Liga MX counterparts, and a total of 953,655 household viewers saw the action unfold live on either ESPN or Univision. The pair of networks simulcast the event and helped create a 2.2x year-over-year audience increase compared to the totals amassed by FS1 and TUDN for the 2021 matchup. But more significantly, the English-language audience more than tripled from 221,542 last year on FS1 to 733,053 on ESPN this year – a 3.31x boost. Simultaneously, Univision’s viewership total was 4% higher than TUDN drew in 2021.

We used MVP’s broadcast platform to examine the DMA breakdown of ESPN’s audience for the game. The two markets with a pair of teams each – Los Angeles and New York – led the way with 63,835 and 45,480 viewers, respectively. Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, and Philadelphia rounded out the top five, with host market Minneapolis-St. Paul finishing sixth. The newest MLS markets, Austin and Charlotte, finished 19th and 21st, respectively, while incoming market St. Louis has yet to catch MLS fever, as it was barely inside the top 100 markets at 92nd.

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SoCal Is a Soccer Hotbed

Among MLS Western Conference clubs this season, Los Angeles FC has proven to be the team to beat. With less than a month remaining in the regular season, the team which entered the league in 2018 is nine points clear of second-place Austin FC. But it was not the frontrunner on social media during All-Star Week. While LAFC generated $206,428 worth of post value during the festivities from August 8-11 on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – a figure that eclipsed MLS clubs’ collective average by 6.29x – it finished second in our social rankings to crosstown rival LA Galaxy. The Galaxy were responsible for $263,290 in social post value from content shared during All-Star Week, as the club earned 397,190 total engagements and created 13 million impressions from 111 total posts. The two LA clubs accounted for 49.4% of all post value generated by Major League Soccer’s 28 clubs during the period. In a distant third place was Seattle Sounders FC with $54,073 in total post value. Minnesota United FC, which played host to All-Star Week, finished 8th in total post value and 10th in total engagements.

MLS’s owned social accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter generated $613,357 in total post value, a 53% increase over last year’s total from All-Star Week despite total posts declining from 255 to 227. Among the reasons for the increased value were an 11% year-over-year increase in engagements to 648,079 and a 50% boost in impressions to 29.75 million.

MLS Social Is On Target

Major League Soccer and its clubs have a wide range of official partners, and many received prominent exposure across social media during the midseason All-Star spectacle. The brand which realized the greatest benefit from its partnership throughout the week was Target. It received $28,420 in total brand value, with $22,203 coming from MLS channels. LA Galaxy was the biggest earner among teams for the retail corporation, generating $3,758 in brand value on its platforms. MLS official supplier adidas finished second among brands with $24,220 in value generation. Of the total, $7,073 came from MLS accounts, $5,257 came from LA Galaxy posts, and $4,988 came from LAFC content. AT&T, Herbalife, and Audi rounded out the top five brand value earners among partners from MLS social content during All-Star Week. However, the Los Angeles Dodgers were also a big winner within the period. Although not an official partner of LAFC, the historic baseball team is associated with the MLS club through an ownership overlap. While MLS was on its break, the Dodgers invited LAFC stars including Gareth Bale to a game at Dodger Stadium on August 9. LAFC’s social content from the crossover generated $21,236 in brand value for the 2020 World Series champions.

Approaching the Season’s 90th Minute

With the 2022 MLS regular season drawing to a close on October 9, several teams are using the final few weeks of competition to solidify or clinch a playoff position. Meanwhile, as has been evident throughout the current campaign, fan interest will continue to propel the league forward. Such passion has helped Major League Soccer secure a 10-year, $250 million streaming rights deal with Apple TV+ beginning next year. The league’s current linear TV deals are set to expire after this season, but networks would seemingly be wise to jump aboard the MLS train while it is still gaining momentum. MVP will continue to monitor Major League Soccer’s broadcast and social media figures as the regular season concludes and the postseason gets underway.

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