A soccer diary from across the pond

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why Red Bull ownership actually has benefits for fans

The header is probably controversial. Some people see the Red Bull takeover of SV Austria Salzburg, the New York/New Jersey Metrostars and SSV Markranst├Ądt as the peak of the commercialization of soccer and cries foul over this development. 

But when you look at it, is it any different from any other non-fan ownership of sports teams? Most owners are trying to earn money from running the team, a good example of this being Malcolm Glazer at Manchester United or Lew Wolff of the Oakland A's. This means that unlike the fan owned clubs, like the Bundesliga clubs, a lot the revenue generated by the teams end up in the pocket of the owner rather than being put to use by the team.

The Red Bull approach is different. Yes, they want to earn money, but the main product is the beverage and all other activities are in support of this product. What does this mean? It means that Red Bull Salzburg/Leipzig/Brasil/Ghana/New York could spend like the Chelsea FCs of the world and Red Bull could just put it in the budget as a marketing expense. Any profit generated by the teams are obviously welcomed, but the main goal of owning the team is increasing brand awareness for the beverage. This mean that Red Bull is likely more ready to spend on players, facilities, etc, in order to have on-field success as this will reflect positively on the brand.

Obviously, there are issues, especially in the cases where Red Bull took over clubs that had a previous history, as it must be tough for fans to see their club being changed, but when you consider the commercialization already in place in soccer, Red Bull ownership isn't that drastic. Commercial partners are everywhere and its impossible to watch soccer without being exposed to a gazillion advertisements: I count 4 sponsors + Nike on this Helsingborgs IF shirt worn by current Red Bull Markus Holgersson.
 (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Red Bulls running soccer clubs is something that can be criticized on many levels, but those are also criticisms that can be pointed at other owners of pro-sports teams and one huge benefit of having Red Bull owning your team, is that they are very likely to have a very strong focus on improving the on-field product and the atmosphere at the stadium. Red Bull showed this in New York with their investments in Red Bull Arena, and the high-profile coaches and DPs. While they have not had success yet, there should be little doubt that Red Bull is ready to spend money in order for NYRB to have success.

I will totally understand why people will reject Red Bull ownership, but it should not be a debate without nuances.

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