Over the years, Roma implemented strategic approaches to develop better brand recognition in the USA but according to recent research, Serie A is not appealing.
Over his six-year ownership of Italian soccer team AS Roma, one of Pallotta‘s main objectives was to expand the brand of the Lupi abroad. Due to his nationality and to the economic impact that such a world superpower can have on the finances of a sporting club, the United States of America has always been considered a top priority for the Bostonian investor. Over the years, several times the giallorossi went to the US for their summer tour to possibly attract millions of followers overseas, however, the overall result of this ‘expeditions’ is questionable.
According to a ‘Nielsen’ analysis contained in the IMG development plan for Italian football abroad, Serie A is a product almost completely snubbed by the American public. In the 2016/17 season, Serie A had 22,000 average TV viewers per game (English-language channels). Therefore, it was the second least seen football league in Europe. The Ligue 1 was the only competition behind the ‘Bel Paese’ (16,000 TV viewers/match). The Premier League leads the group with 369,000 spectators with an audience 16 times higher than that of the Italian championship.
Although in the last few years the interest in the Major League Soccer (MLS) has sharply increased, the US market seems to be impermeable to the European leagues. The disinterestedness of the American public towards Italian football had already been highlighted this summer during the International Championship Cup when the match between Juventus and Roma played at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts had a turnout of just over 33,000 people.
Focussing more on lack of appeal of the Italian Serie A in the USA, we can highlight that by taking into consideration those channels broadcasting in Spanish language the Italian league raises to 24,000 spectators per game. The Mexican championship leads this special ranking due to the high concentration of Mexican people residing in the USA. It is interesting to know that the Mexican championship and the MLS are the only two competitions that are gaining viewership in the last three seasons.
Series A dropped from 30,000 to 22,000 spectators per game recording a -26%. This is the second worst result of the tournaments taken into consideration. Only the French Ligue 1 (-30%) did worse.
Roma is, therefore, facing a difficult but potentially rewarding market. The main dilemma is to assess if the club is providing signals of strength and consolidation or if their player trading policy could be perceived as a factor of weakness by football lovers. Statistically, the most loved clubs in the world (the USA included) are those who retain top stars adding further jewels to their rosters. This is the reason why PSG, not a prominent club since the arrival of the Sheik Al-Khelaïfi, is probably more attractive than Roma in the US market at this time. With the acquisition of top stars like Neymar and Mbappè, the club of Paris has now a worldwide recognition and the possibility to triumph in the Champions League as well. The same concept is valid for Manchester City. When Sheikh Mansour got the majority stake of the ‘poor’ team of Manchester, the Citizens were struggling to avoid relegation on a seasonal basis. The unbelievable injection of capital provided by the Sheik boosted ManCity’s potential and appeal worldwide gaining market share in the USA as well.
Will Roma’s different strategy pay off? Who knows…