How Soccer Leagues & FIFA World Cup Influence U.S. Consumer Demand
In this analysis, Pattern evaluates changes in U.S. consumer demand for soccer products. This report will help uncover:
- When are soccer products in highest demand in the U.S.?
- Major League Soccer vs. English Premier League
- Does the FIFA Club World Cup influence consumer demand?
- Do FIFA World Cup group announcements impact consumer demand?
- Which soccer player jerseys are the most popular among U.S. consumers?
- North American players
- South American players
- European players
- How ecommerce retailers can prepare for the World Cup and more
The FIFA World Cup is hosted every four years, and the next tournament will kick off on November 20, 2022. With soccer top-of-mind for many consumers, we thought it would be a great opportunity to evaluate how consumer demand is impacted by soccer events in the U.S., Europe, and globally. To help ecommerce retailers and social media strategists better meet their consumers’ preferences, we also analyzed which player jerseys were the most popular among U.S. Amazon shoppers.
When are Soccer Products in Highest Demand in the U.S.?
Unsurprisingly, consumer demand for soccer products appears to be highest when league-specific events are in play. What is interesting to note, however, is which leagues have the strongest influence on consumer demand. Despite what one may believe, it isn’t North American activity that drives the most demand for U.S. shoppers.
Major League Soccer vs. English Premier League
In the U.S., Major League Soccer is the official league for soccer players. Similarly, the English Premier League is the highest level of men’s English football in the United Kingdom.
When comparing change in U.S. consumer demand month over month from 2019 – 2022, we found some noteworthy behaviors. As can be seen in the 2019, 2020, and 2021 charts below, there are moderate increases in consumer demand for soccer balls and jerseys when the Major League Soccer season starts across all years:
At the start of the Major League Soccer season in 2019, demand for soccer cleats rose by 43%, demand for soccer balls rose by 38%, and demand for soccer jerseys rose by 28% compared to the month prior.
Again, at the beginning of the Major League Soccer season in 2020, demand for soccer balls rose by 28%. During this same period, however, interest in soccer cleats and soccer jerseys fell by 46% and 38%, respectively. This is likely due to the fact that the Major League Soccer season’s 2020 start date nearly coincided with the formal announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the start of the Major League Soccer season in the U.S. saw a 46% increase in demand for soccer balls and 16% increase in demand for soccer jerseys. However, demand for soccer cleats fell by 24% during this same period.
While moderate changes can be observed each year at the start of the Major League Soccer season, even more significant increases can be seen when the English Premier League season commences. Here’s how consumer demand was impacted across all three years at the start of the English Premier League season:
- 2019: 47% increase in demand for soccer cleats; 0% increase in demand for soccer balls; 10% decrease in demand for soccer jerseys
- 2020: 54% increase in demand for soccer cleats; 47% increase in demand for soccer balls; 19% increase in demand for soccer jerseys
- 2021: 66% increase in demand for soccer cleats; 38% increase in demand for soccer balls; 40% increase in demand for soccer jerseys
Except for 2019, consumer demand for soccer products in all three categories was higher at the start of the English Premier League season than at the beginning of the Major League Soccer season. This suggests consumers are more closely following the English soccer season than the American league.
Does the FIFA Club World Cup Influence Consumer Demand?
As aforementioned, the FIFA World Cup occurs once every four years. However, the FIFA Club World Cup is held every year. In 2020, the FIFA Club World Cup was originally planned for December; however, this got postponed until February 2021. As we can observe in the graph below, demand across all three soccer product categories reached their peak for the year during this time:
This same trend was not observed during the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup tournament. During the timeframe of the tournament from December 11 – 21, 2019, demand across all three soccer product categories was relatively low:
Several factors could explain why consumer demand increased coinciding with the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup compared to the 2019 tournament, including:
- Pandemic Worries: While the global pandemic was not officially announced until March 11, 2020, initial reports on the coronavirus outbreak began in December 2019. Consumers may have been less interested in recreational activities and more focused on the emerging updates coming out of Wuhan, China.
- Tournament Planning: The 2019 FIFA Club World Cup was formally announced on September 30, 2019 (only about two months from the tournament start date). By contrast, the 2021 tournament was announced in September 2020, originally slated for December 2020, and finally postponed until February 2021. The added anticipation and game delay could have contributed to more buzz around the tournament.
- Seasonality: Since December marks the height of the basketball season in the U.S., consumers were likely more focused on basketball-related events than on soccer. This could also explain why more consumers were interested in soccer products during the FIFA Club World Cup in 2021 than in 2019.
Do FIFA World Cup Group Announcements Impact Consumer Demand?
We were able to take a look at how U.S. consumer demand changed following the 2022 FIFA World Cup group announcement. As it turns out, U.S. consumers actually experienced decreased demand following the announcement on April 1, 2022:
Since the FIFA World Cup announcement coincided with the end of March Madness and the start of the 2022 National Basketball Association playoffs, this could explain the decreased demand in soccer products among U.S. consumers.
Which Soccer Player Jerseys are the Most Popular?
Our team wanted to see which soccer player jerseys were most popular among U.S. consumers. To find this, we compiled a list of the most searched-for players in North America, South America, and Europe. From there, we tallied up all the searches in each category for all players from 2019 – 2022. Then, we compared the total searches for each individual player to the total for all players in their category.
North American Players
When it comes to soccer player preference for North American players, U.S. consumers have a clear favorite. According to our data, 95% of all searches for North American player-specific soccer jerseys between 2019 – 2022 were for American soccer player, Christian Pulisic.
While Pulisic is an attacking midfielder/winger for the United States national team, he currently plays for the Premier League club Chelsea in the United Kingdom. Since U.S. consumer demand for soccer jerseys is highest at the start of the English Premier League season, this could explain Pulisic’s extreme popularity among U.S. shoppers.
South American Players
Consumer preference for South American players is a little less cut-and-dry; however, there is still a clear winner in the category. It turns out that most U.S. consumers (49%) prefer to support Lionel Andrés Messi of Argentina when it comes to South American soccer jerseys. Since many of these players also play in Europe, it makes sense that U.S. shoppers would be more interested in their jerseys than in U.S.-based players:
When observing the top searched-for European players, we were surprised to see that no players from the English Premier League appeared at the top. However, there was a clear favorite again in this category for U.S. consumers: Kylian Mbappé. With 88% of total searches for European players, Mbappé’s popularity among U.S. consumers is undeniable:
How Ecommerce Retailers Can Prepare for the World Cup & More
Understanding how U.S. consumers follow and respond to soccer leagues, both nationally and internationally, is essential for ecommerce retailers to anticipate and satisfy changes in demand.
Using this data, online sporting retailers now understand the relationship between higher consumer demand for soccer products and gear to the start of the English Premier League season. Empowered with this information, they can plan their supply chain and marketing calendars more effectively, ensuring all inventory, advertising, and customer support needs are met.
Here are the top takeaways ecommerce retailers should prepare for based on our knowledge:
- While demand is higher during the English Premier League season start than the Major League Soccer season start, demand for soccer products is higher than the seasonal average at both times, so prepare accordingly.
- The top three most popular soccer player jerseys among U.S. consumers are for Christian Pulisic, Kylian Mbappé, and Lionel Andrés Messi.
- The FIFA Club World Cup may also have an impact on soccer product sales, so it’s a good idea to ensure products are well-stocked during this time each year.
If you’re interested in uncovering more data like this to empower your ecommerce strategy, contact Pattern today.