Com 0014 – Blog 3- Target Audiences- Major League Soccer and the Flattening of North American Major Pro Sports

In Globalization 1.0, which began around 1492, the world went from size large to size medium. In Globalization 2.0, the era that introduced us to multinational companies, it went from size medium to size small. And then around 2000 came Globalization 3.0, in which the world went from being small to tiny.” Thomas Friedman.

In the past twenty-five years, North America’s major pro sports landscape has changed on many levels. Globalization had changed this on many levels. First, gone are the days of only traditional major networks showing sporting events (CBC, CTV in Canada; NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox) but now we have many different sports specialty channels (TSN, Sportsnet in Canada, ESPN, Fox Sports in the US) who show major North American pro sports leagues.

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FC Dallas Vs Houston Dynamo via Flickr  by Ed Schlpul Some Rights Reserved Under the Creative Commons

Second, is how the “500 Channel Universe”, and the Internet made information and viewing more accessible of international sports that North Americans thought were as fringe. This is especially true with soccer. A quarter century ago, it was nearly impossible to watch Spain’s La Liga, English Premier League, or Italian Serie A. If you were a sports fan in Canada, and the names of Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich came up, You would say “Who on earth are those names”. Now with the Internet, along with specific channels catering to soccer fans like BeIn Sports, and Rogers Sportsnet World, these names are becoming household sporting names, along the likes of The Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Eskimoes, and Los Angeles Lakers.

Third, was FIFA hosting the 1994 World Cup in the United States. One of the conditions was the US had to form a top tier division. In 1996, Major League Soccer (MLS) began play, slowly seeping into the stream of major North American pro sports (NHL, MLB, NFL, NBA, and CFL, depending where you are).

Fourth, was is the change in demographics. US immigration is changing. Consider by 2045, Caucasians will not represent the majority. Rather, Latinos, Asians, and African Americans will lead the shift in demographics.

Consider also millennials, now make up a quarter of the US population, and you have a recipe for a shift in North America’s major pro sports markets. This has tremendous benefits for MLS heading forward in both demographics, and psychographics.

First, MLS has the largest support of viewers with 34% of Latino fans watching the league. This only helped the league get Unimas/Univision sign onto a eight year agreement back as its US Spanish speaking broadcaster, along with ESPN, and Fox with the  English broadcast rights, starting with the 2015 season. Compare, this to the NHL, whose majority of fans are Caucasian.

Second, MLS largest base is from lower income workers, making $40,000 and under. Compare this to the NHL who has the most fans who make the most money at over $160,000.

Third, professional soccer, is the sport of attendance choice for millennials. MLS bigwigs proudly announced this in their 20th anniversary brochure last year. Compare this to MLB, where, 50% of fans are fifty-five plus years old.

Given how social media is playing a role in changing how we look at the world, MLS is using the power of the Internet to harness its target audience. It’s on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Periscope.

MLS also has a site dedicated to its Spanish fans, and is run by its broadcasting partner Univision.

By using various social media outlets to engage and listen to their largest audience, while also partnering with Univision in showing Spanish broadcasted games, MLS is understanding the importance of taking care of its two diversified target audiences, Millennials and Latinos, as it is in good shape on flattening the dominance of the North American major pro sports market, (held by the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and CFL).

My question is how much has social media, globalization and the Internet helped to flatten the support of traditional pro sports in North America,while boosting sports like soccer?