The soccer pushers 

Local firm gets in on World Cup action.

SELLING THE YANKS: Stone Ward's Tommy Walker and Kyle Floyd were behind the U.S. Soccer Federation's World Cup ad campaign.
  • SELLING THE YANKS: Stone Ward's Tommy Walker and Kyle Floyd were behind the U.S. Soccer Federation's World Cup ad campaign.

"The beauty of soccer is that something could happen at any moment."

Kyle Floyd is excited about the World Cup, even though the U.S. men's national team didn't make it quite as far as he, or millions of other "Yanks" fans, would have liked. So why is he so excited? Well, for one reason, he just likes soccer. For another, it's his job.

Floyd works for Stone Ward, a Little Rock public relations firm that recently became the agency of record for the U.S. Soccer Federation.

"The federation was looking for an agency with a presence in Chicago, which Stone Ward has," Floyd says. "It was a pitch process. And it enabled us to demonstrate that we have the capabilities to take care of their needs, but even more than that, we have people in the office that are seriously passionate about soccer and that really came across."

As part of their ad campaign, Stone Ward created television commercials centered on the theme, "The Yanks are Coming." The agency also created print advertisements and started the website marketingsoccer.com.

The agency, Floyd says, had two main goals for representing the U.S. team. Number one, generate excitement for the sport in the lead-up to the World Cup. And two, actually get people out to the qualifying matches, many of which were held in the U.S.

The World Cup was extremely popular in the U.S. this time around, but there still seems to be a hesitation on the part of most Americans to really embrace a game that has become so popular all over the world. Floyd says that's only partially true. Yes, Americans tend to like higher-scoring games like basketball, but don't underestimate their ability to rally behind a cause.

"Americans love their national teams," he says. "It doesn't really matter what sport it is. We threw ourselves behind some really strange sports for the Olympics. We love national teams. So to generate excitement around this wasn't as difficult as you might think."

The excitement was definitely there. According to statistics from Bloomberg, EuropeTalent, FIFA, Nielson and USNews, the World Cup averaged 95 million viewers per match, world-wide. More than 120 million U.S. viewers watched at least one minute of a World Cup broadcast. Since the games come on in the morning due to the time difference, a lot of people are watching while they work. It's estimated that U.S. companies will likely lose $121 million in lost productivity, and that's if employees only sneak away for 10 minutes per game.

Of course, the World Cup does have its detractors. Glenn Beck and other conservative commentators have been doing their best to run the World Cup into the ground.

"It doesn't matter how you try to sell it to us, it doesn't matter how many celebrities you get, it doesn't matter how many bars open early, it doesn't matter how many beer commercials they run, we don't want the World Cup, we don't like the World Cup, we don't like soccer, we want nothing to do with it. ... They continually try to jam it down our throat," Beck said.

But Floyd says that's a minority opinion and Tommy Walker agrees.

Walker, who works as the director of broadcast production at Stone Ward, says the appeal of soccer is not only universal but contagious.

"As Americans, if America is playing another country, then that draws everybody together," Walker says. "At the agency, not everyone here is soccer-crazy, but when we were playing, the TVs were packed with people and when we scored it just went ballistic."

Floyd and Walker say they've also partnered with the USA bid committee to bring the World Cup to America in 2018 or 2022. The latter is probably more likely, Floyd says. And while their work with the U.S. men's team will likely start to wind down soon, the U.S. women's team will play in the women's World Cup in 2011.

The men's team will play three "friendly" matches over the next couple of months, including a showdown with World Cup stand-out Brazil in August. And Floyd says Stone Ward will, hopefully, be in the soccer business for the foreseeable future.

"We're the agency of record now, so it's not like there's a contract that has an end," he says. "Our task is really to tell people, 'Hey, kids all over this country are playing this game. You might have always thought of it as the world's game and not America's game but if you really stop and look around, it really is America's game.'"




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