Clearly the USA is a country not limited when it comes to 'mainstream' sport, and football (soccer to those crazy scamps) is not one of them. The game we love falls behind American football, baseball, ice hockey, NASCAR, tiddly winks and competitive chess. In a country where the competition between sports is so strong, it is not surprising that the English Premier League is pretty low on peoples sporting agenda's (in some cases though it may be higher than their own domestic soccer league, but that's a whole different blog post), but that knowledge is out there and with football mad Latin American communities in each major City there is a fan base to attract, it may be minor compared to their top bracket games, but it does exist.
During my time over there, I saw quite a few United, Liverpool, Chelsea and even an Arsenal shirt, but I saw noone representing the English champions. Maybe that is to be expected, we have only recent become big news outside of our own country, but considering we spent 2 consecutive preseasons in the States you would think we should maybe have more to show for it.
That isn't to say there are no Manchester City fans in New York, or the country as a whole, clearly there are, in fact 'The Mad Hatter' bar in the city is recommended for all City fans that find themselves over that way, but when you consider the ties we had to the country with former CEO Garry Cooke coming from Nike, and the trips we did over there I just thought we may have had more of an influence than we seem to have. As with all things though, continued success will clearly spread the word of the club, and these fans and more importantly their money will follow, but I am finding myself begin to wonder if the American market is even one worth pursuing?
As I mentioned, football/soccer just isn't a big deal to mainstream America, sure the Latin population and some of the Afro/Carribean communities prefer it, but if you asked the average man in the street in a small US town to name 3 Premier League teams I suspect it would be a spectacular failure, despite this, numerous clubs every year try to compete with the NFL/NBA/NHL to take some money out of the American public, and over all the years it has only ever really been met with limited success. There comes a time where you wonder if it would be best to write off trying to 'crack' America and focus on other markets, and I wonder if that is what we are beginning to do.
The Summer of 2012 was our first preseason without Garry Cooke at the helm; and with the change in CEO, there was a change in our preseason tour. This year the focus seemed to be more on football as opposed to marketing and that is something that I wholeheartedly buy into. Whereas in the past players have been put through their paces in Los Angeles, this year it was done in a quiet town in the Swiss Alps, the public engagements were gone, and hard work was the focus.
That isn't to say that we didn't do any work trying to spread the brand this Summer, there was a fleeting trip to Asia to play Arsenal and a Malay XI in the birds nest stadium and Kuala Lumpur, clearly this exercise will have aided us and hopefully won us some new supporters, and for me this is a much better use of our time in preseason. People in the far East are crazy about football, where as the majority of Americans are ambivalent. It would be a much easier task to convert kids in China, Thailand and Malaysia into City fans than it is in Milwaukee, Des Moines and Atlanta.
The exposure that the Premier League has in these Asian markets is huge, and although the majority of support is for our rivals due to their success there is still huge opportunities there for us to make the sort of money we need to help meet Financial Fair Play. Clearly this is not an ideal scenario for supporters that we have in other parts of the world, but if we are cynical and view these tours as nothing more than the money making schemes that they are, then surely it is preferable to focus our efforts on markets with easier and slightly more solid gains.
It is undeniable that if a few football teams did 'crack' the US, the financial rewards would be huge, but competing against their major sports, as well as the attitude that the majority of Americans seem to have towards football makes it somewhat of an impossible mission in my mind, where as the gains in Asia would be much easier to achieve and potentially far more rewarding.