29 March 2007

The Complicated Economics of Bobby Boswell (Dot Com)

There's been talk recently of trying to build more star power into MLS, and certainly it's part of the ESPN package for MLS game production. MLS, ESPN, probably even US Soccer are eager to see some players venture forth and become a brand in their own right. To put this in perspective, there are some leagues in the USA that sell their game based on their stars. The NBA is probably the most conveniently used example, but you can throw NASCAR and Golf into that mix. The NFL seems to sell itself less on stars and more on team loyalty and game product, although certainly it was a few stars, their marketing is not about the stars they have. Major League Baseball is a hyrbrid, but probably drifts more to the player-centric theory of marketing.

The push of Bobby Boswell (and to a lesser extent Ben Olsen) into the public consciousness can be seen as an extension of MLS's desire to create personalities it can market soccer around. Last year it was "Embrace the Colors," but the message was mixed when they kept showing images of Donovan, Mastroeni, and Adu. This year the focus will be much more about marketing players as emblems of their team, a sort of soccer synecdoche.

Personally, I like the idea to a point. MLS has some great stories and personalities to which fans like me can form a strong connection. The DCenters has been in the tank for Boswell for about two years, so we're thrilled to see him get the proper attention from the world. Similarly, we'd love to see Jimmy Conrad, Brian Ching, Kenny Cooper, or some others step forward for their team as people in addition to soccer players.

The interesting thing is what pressure this may put on the league. If, for instance, MLS/D.C. United is successful in turning Bobby Boswell into a media star, then they now have invested a certain degree of the team's identity with a player. So what? So Bobby refused a contract renegotiation recently. In essence, D.C. United in supporting BobbyBoswell.Com is strengthening Boswell's negotiating position while weakening their own. The gamble, of course, is that DC United's value as a brand also increases as much, if not more, than Boswell's value as a brand. But to some degree they have now forged a link between the two. Which is, I think, fascinating, since it's going to be tougher to United to say goodbye to someone they've packaged in a nice black and red website. It's interesting. I hope United pays the man his money.

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At 30 March, 2007 11:21, Blogger Paul said...

I love a sports blog that can use the word "synecdoche".

How is DCU supporting Bobbyboswell.com?

At 30 March, 2007 14:09, Blogger D said...

I believe, though I could be wrong, that DC United personnel are involved in "The Management" of BobbyBoswell.Com. Also, DC United staff have helped spread the hype on the website, and would cross market it at DCUnited.Com.


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