I was minding my own business, planning how to further trash multinational accounting and consulting firms, when all of a sudden I see this:
We need to stop making this about the financials- understand the benefits Pro/Rel has to the quality of play and the spirit of competition https://t.co/kijajUrcoC— Eric Wynalda (@EricWynalda) August 29, 2017
Oh, so now we don't want to talk about financials? I wonder what's changed. Did an accounting firm release a report on promotion and relegation that didn't stand up to the slightest scrutiny, or something?
Speaking of the slightest scrutiny, let’s go back to the Deloitte fan poll.
The one that isn't in the report? The one that said "88" more often than an Aryan motorcycle gang? The nice people at Fleischer Communications have given us a little insight.
I'm being more or less sincere. I certainly wouldn't be responding to me, if we were each other.
Anyway, after the press release, I e-mailed back and said "How method poll took?" or words to that effect. Fleischer Communications answered with a link to the full report, and we've all had a wonderful time ever since. But I did write and say, "Poll not in report. Poll in press release, but not in report. Where poll? How poll work?" or words to that effect.
And, by golly, here's the response:
The survey was conducted by a reputable company on behalf of Deloitte. It was completed by 1,058 respondents, which included:
• 499 respondents – who were representative of the wider National US Audience
• 559 additional respondents – who had previously stated they have an interest in soccer or enjoy watching soccer.
Of the population of 1,058 respondents – all were interested in at least one of MLS, NASL, USL or National Team.
All respondents were based in the USA.
Now, if someone can explain to me the difference between those two groups, I'm all ears. If I'm parsing this correctly, Reputable Inc. found 499 people representing a cross-section of America but were also interested in at least one of MLS, NASL, USL or National Team. Then they added 559 people who were also interested in at least one of MLS, NASL, USL or National Team...but were not representative of the wider US audience.
Whatever. Let’s pretend that the poll came down from Moses.
It doesn't matter how many people, in whatever category, think promotion and relegation is nifty or not. The question is whether it's a good idea. In the immortal lyrics of Justin Bieber, "popular is not the same as good."
Reputable and Sons LLC notwithstanding, this was supposed to be a business justification for promotion and relegation. If 88% of your customers want you to hurt your business? You're not going to do it.
Ah! But what if that 88% is passionate and determined? That 88% can unite against the corporate overlords and force real change! Well, sure...if promotion and relegation wasn’t aimed to attract the least motivated and least committed fans.
How do I know this? I read it in a DeloitteUK report.
Here’s the evidence DUK presents to prove that promotion and relegation is more popular on TV than Brand X:
In contrast, evidence from open leagues suggests that the dynamic of promotion and relegation delivers a more appealing broadcast product. For example, analysis of the English Championship in 2015/16 serves to highlight this as the two clubs that achieved automatic promotion (Burnley and Middlesbrough) saw considerable increases in their latter regular season games that decided their promotion:
Burnley’s deciding match against Queen’s Park Rangers saw their highest average broadcast audience of the season, of 551,000, 74% higher than the season average for the other (13) Burnley matches broadcast in the season (source: EFL, Kantar).
The match between Middlesbrough and Brighton and Hove Albion, which secured Middlesbrough’s promotion was the second highest average audience (436,000) and the highest peak audience of the season (697,000), with the average being more than 32% higher than the average for the other (15) matches in which Middlesbrough appeared on television (source: EFL, Kantar).
This is not just the regular season race either, with the English Championship playoffs seeing matches for the participants ranging from between 22% and 163% higher than the regular season averages for those clubs, and between 47% and 216% higher when compared to the season average for all matches in the league.
The evidence for the increased attractiveness, from a broadcast perspective, is not just limited to England. The second leg of the Serie B play off final in Italy in 2016, between Trapani and Pescara drew an average audience of 467,434 a Serie B record for Sky Italia.
You know what? Let’s give them this. Just put a big red bow on it and say “Job well done.”
I might bring up in passing that if promotion by itself was the draw, then the Championship wouldn’t need to have promotion playoffs at all, would they? I’d say something about how it might have been a more useful idea to use ratings for American television audiences. I’d expand on that thought by reminding everyone that thanks to Liga MX, we could even compare ratings for playoff implication games versus games with relegation implications.
And knowing me, I'd probably be tempted to point out that since a promotion race is supposed to be a race, it would be nice to know whether the other six teams benefited from the excitement as well before the actual playoffs...or whether the Burnley-QPR and Boro-BHA games simply took away viewers from other games.
And I'd probably expand that thought to include years besides 2015/16, because, I mean, they do this every year. Might be a pattern somewhere? Something that could be measured and analyzed by professionals, even?
But no. It's Believe Everything We Read Day. Promotion and relegation matches draw bigger audiences than playoff spot matches. DeloitteUK proves it beyond any shadow of a doubt. MLS ratings drop off drastically from summer to autumn. But come springtime, we love us some Middlesbrough. Pretty open and shut. Good work, DeloitteUK!
...just a couple of things.
Those promotion and relegation matches? DeloitteUK somehow managed to forget the “and relegation” part.
I mean, we’ve read about narrative and such, over and over, and compelling content, and how MLS needs something to give the season a little pepper when the kids go back to school. I hate to be a stickler, but, the thing about MLS is, there’s not really much we can do for them as far as promotion matches are concerned.
So, glad to hear about Burney and Boro’s groovy ratings, but, I think the more useful comparison would be how many people slowed down to watch the car crashes.
If any enterprising young accountant would care to check, the teams you are looking at for 2015/16 are Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic, and Milton Keynes. And brother, they stunk it up something wild! Those three were underwater from the jump! They must have been piling up the ratings like crazy!
Seems like the kind of thing that shouldn’t be taken for granted, though.
Because if relegation matches didn't draw appreciably better than otherwise...or even vary noticeably more than quality or popularity of opponent, time of day, time of season, and so on...well, it's one thing to use the Johnson & Johnson brand Band-Aid Non-Stick Bandage on the kneecap you just blasted with the shotgun. It's another to put it on the other kneecap.
But this is the case FOR promotion and relegation. All the bad things that could happen to a relegated team? That would obviously be covered in detail - responsible, dutiful, professional detail, worthy of the very Biggest and Fourest - in Section 6.
What’s that? You’re worried that Section 6 would only be one-fifth the size of Section 5, and half of that taken up with “Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if” followed by fantasies Gary Gygax wouldn’t believe? Oh, come on - could you imagine if a reputable accounting or consulting firm tried to pull a fast one like that? They’d be laughed out of the business!
Glad there’s no chance of that happening.
But like I said, we’re giving this to them. MLS ratings will go up with a few relegation matches. Give those lazy sons of bitches a reason to exert themselves, am I right? What could go wrong? Is there something else that would prevent MLS fall ratings from….wait, what's this?
“The start of the NFL season may also be a contributing factor in lower audiences for MLS in the autumn.”
You know what? I’m on Deloitte’s side here! SCREW the NFL! SCREW gridiron! I mean it! Why are we trying to get football fans not to watch football? We want soccer fans! It’s a better game, after all, isn’t it?
Here’s the thing.
First of all, it isn’t just the NFL. If DeloitteUK’s Sports Business Group ever decides to maybe, I dunno, pick up the phone (or “braces,” as they say in England) and talk to an American, they’d learn that the NFL pretty much is a Sunday thing. They play a few games on Monday, to make some extra money. And they play a few games on Thursday, to make some extra money and make sure the product sucks just that extra little bit more.
You’d think they play on Saturdays.
And they do. End of December, January, around then.
September, October, November...not so much.
No real reason for that.
Except for the biggest god-damn time sink in the athletic world, the dawn to dusk embarrassment to amateurism and education that calls itself college football, cursed be those who sail in her. Imagine watching Iowa every week. My family makes me turn it off whenever I do. And they’re right, I admit that.
But this isn’t about Kirk Ferentz being the biggest white collar criminal in America today. This is about marketing. And what we want to show to fans who are actually reachable.
We’ve talked about how American sports see themselves. They would never admit there was anything else drawing people to (gridiron) football, except football. You and I know it’s a deeply flawed game. I’m sure DeloitteUK is rightly repelled by the whole thing.
And we’ve talked about what promotion and relegation markets. Something outside the field of play. Something that, if the NFL felt like it, it could use for itself. However, many fans of soccer nowadays are willing to swear that the most important and essential thing about it has nothing to do with what actually happens on the field.
Great! Let’s accept that premise, too. Soccer without promotion and relegation is nothing.
Forget the long-term negatives of what happens to relegated teams. DeloitteUK sure does. Let’s pretend all this is gospel.
Teams in danger of relegation tend to - and I apologize for the overly technical jargon - suck. They play bad soccer, get bad results, and basically annoy the crap out of anyone unfortunate enough to follow them.
When you market relegation, you market teams that are in danger of being relegated. This year, that would mean - oh, let’s see, who’s a disgrace to the sport this year - my beloved Galaxy.
I would never in good conscience tell someone to watch this year’s Galaxy. Especially someone new to the sport, open to the sport, wanting to learn what’s good and fun about soccer. Here’s some math for you. Good and fun soccer = 1/2017 Galaxy. This season cannot end fast enough, and I can’t want to pretend it never happened.
Promotion and relegation means MLS marketing the 2017 LA Galaxy. And the equivalent of the 2017 LA Galaxy. Every season.
Teams in MLS that are trying to clinch a playoff spot come in all forms. Some are just kinda there. Some had a hot start, and have given themselves way too much drama at exactly the wrong time. (FC Dallas, wave to the nice people.) And some have made a couple of changes, added a player or two in the transfer window, and are about to play the best soccer in the league from here on out.
That’s what you want to show to disaffected gridiron fan. Not the Chargers’ worthless roommates.
What gridiron does right? They show good teams playing other good teams whenever possible. Good teams playing not-so-good teams when the good matchups aren’t available. Because among other reasons, they have decades of data showing that good teams get more viewers than bad teams.
Let’s say MLS takes Deloitte’s advice, and starts kicking teams out of the league. Millions, perhaps even thousands, watch the Galaxy do its imitation of Titanic passengers being rescued by the Hindenburg. Maybe the Galaxy survive, maybe they don't. But they watched the Galaxy, instead of something, you know, not hideous.
Have we made those viewers into soccer fans? Or Something At Stake fans?
That would be nice to know. But we don’t, because DeloitteUK’s Sports Business Group couldn’t be bothered to do anything more than take two games in England and one in Italy to extrapolate the entire history of the sport. Thanks, guys.
But what I do know is that DeloitteUK, thanks to Reputable Polls and Notions, found that a huge cross-section of American soccer fans, or at least fans based in the United States, think it's absolutely crucial to have some kind of gimmick in order to watch American soccer.
Remember, we're taking Deloitte and Reputable at their word here. Eighty-eight percent of American soccer fans. Not Eurosnobs. Not Mexican national team fans pointing and laughing. Not the Saturday morning pub crowd. Not the hipsters. American soccer fans.
I really, really hope Reputable's methodology ends up as untrustworthy as DeloitteUK's. Because otherwise - we haven't spent the past twenty-plus years making people into soccer fans. We've just turned them into people who slow down to watch traffic accidents.
Oh, and Chart 5 on page 16 of the Deloitte report is the same one as Chart 14 on page 29. DeloitteUK just didn’t care.
It’s weird, the NFL never plays on Fridays. Is high school football really so big that the NFFL (second F deliberate) has to kowtow to a bunch of pimply-faced teens? What does THAT say about America, I wonder.
Next: Let's take a break and watch World Cup qualifiers! Winners get promoted to playing next summer, losers get relegated to...not playing next summer. You know, I’m starting to think you don’t need relegation to enjoy this sport.