A soccer diary from across the pond

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why the New York Cosmos will likely fail

What makes a brand a good brand? If you boil it down, it is all about the brand promise. You can have a product of sub-par quality, but if what you are promising consumer is a low price, rather than a quality product, you can still have a good brand, as you are giving consumers what they expect.

That is exactly what good branding is about. Defining what your product is, find out, who wants that, tell them that they can get from you, and finally ensuring that what they are receiving is what they expected.

These core principles of branding, are extremely relevant when you talk about the "re-birth" of the NASL and the New York Cosmos. When a brand is reintroduced by new owners, you have to deal with the fact, that you infact do not own the brand fully. The fans of the original NASL and its team, have strong associations of the meanings and connotations of those brand, and the new NASL will have to deal with these expectations.

This is where, it becomes problematic for the NASL 2.0 and Cosmos 2.0. Because what NASL 1.0 stood for was glamour, foreign stars, and a somewhat high standard of play, by virtue of these old, foreign stars. When people think Cosmos they think Pele and Beckenbauer. When you think of the LA Aztecs they think of Johann Cruyff and George Best. Ironically, these are also the players associated with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in addition to Gerd Müller.

So when a fan of the original Strikers go to a Strikers game in 2013, he or she is bound to be disappointed when its a Andy Herron, rather than a Gerd Müller leading the attack.

There are high expectations generally associated with the old NASL names, and by virtue of the money and infrastructure involved the NASL, I have a hard time seeing those expectations being met. Especially when it comes to the Cosmos. They are THE team, that people remember from the original NASL and I am very much curious as to how, they will connect the brand to the product that they will be fielding in the fall.

Some might point to the Cascadian teams and ask why they work, so well in spite of the issues I have put forth, but I see the reason why those brands fit and work well, is that they transcended the NASL and continued in other forms throughout the years and stayed relevant to the community.

When the Cosmos are back and when the suggestion is made that Chivas USA rebrand to the Aztecs, consumers aren't so stupid that they think that this is the old team coming back. There might be some immediate curiosity, but also a strong sense of scepticism, as it is clear that new people and new organizations are trying to capitalize and monetize on an old brand that the consumers held dear, without having a real connection to organization and the community behind the original brand name.

These Cosmos name carry a lot of baggage and it i to be used successfully it will take a huge marketing and community effort by the front office, to tell the fans of the original team, why this new team should be accepted as the Cosmos and why, what will see, will be very different from what they saw then.

If that can be done I will applaud them. Not only for succeeding with such a huge task, but I also think that succeeding with this will be to a benefit for American soccer.

Good luck Cosmos - you'll need it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wilhelmsson moving to UAE, will stay at Galaxy if DP

Wilhelmsson is moving to the United Arab Emirates to play, according to Swedish website fotbollskanalen.se. Wilhelmsson's agent confirms that the players want to move back to the area as "the soccer, life, and circumstances there are good. So that is the main target right now." The agent adds: "It could even be a continuation in MLS, but only if he becomes a player outside of the salary cap."
In other words, Bruce Arena can keep Wilhelmsson, but I doubt that he and the Galaxy management is ready to use a DP spot on an aging Swede.

Friday, January 11, 2013

On Cascadia Cup and MLS

So there has been a big controversy over the fact, that MLS has tried to trademark the "Cascadia Cup" name. A lot of accusations of stealing has been thrown around, and there hasn't exactly been a public dialogue.

I write the following, obviously without having all information, and should new information come my way I will adapt my stance accordingly.

So, MLS tries to trademark "Cascadia Cup". Whats so wrong with that? If it is indeed true, that they wanted to do it, to protect it from being stolen from someone not related to the soccer environment in Cascadia, thats a fair point. Though the way the went about it was wrong. Everyone knows, that the Cascadians are a proud bunch of people, who make a point out of being there before MLS was around. So rather than discretely filing for the trademark in court, MLS representatives should have contacted the supporters groups and said: "Neither of us is interested in the name being highjacked, how do we best protect it?"

Some have asked why the supporters groups hadn't already trademarked it, and to that I answer: They're soccer fans, not an organized business. They probably never even thought of the necessity, and because MLS didn't take a collaborative approach with the supporters groups, they are perceiving MLS to be exploiting the fact, that they didn't do this.

MLS lives of its fans, and the fans in Cascadia are a source of great PR for the league. MLS should immediately choice a more collaborative approach, and show the sports fans of North America, that MLS is a league that sees the fans as partners, rather than milking cows. For sports leagues and teams, fans are not just consumers, but co-producers. When their actions and communication fail to acknowledge this, they end up looking bad.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Diskerud still open to Norway

So Mikkel Diskerud is part of the January camp. Good he is talented young player, who could be a good player for the US.

However until the qualifiers nothing is certain.

As late as October 2012 Diskerud was asked by a Norwegian newspaper: "Do you want to play for Norway?" To this Diskerud replied: "Yes, I do. But I do not think Drillo (the Norwegian coach) wants me - based on what he said earlier - and I am not sure that I want to play in Drillo's preferred system."

What to make of this? Not sure, but it does show how international soccer is complex, when it comes to young dual citizens. Norway isn't like to change their coach anytime soon and such Diskerud will probably stay with the US. But if I was Klinsmann I'd bring him to Honduras and give him a few minutes if possible, just in case.