The USA loves sports. From the putting greens where the pace is slow to the rush of players skating down a rink on a breakaway, there’s something for everyone when it comes to the major leagues.
A recent Statista survey found that 40% of Americans consider themselves to be a casual fan of at least one sport, while 24% consider themselves to be avid fans. Broadcasting channels like ESPN help keep millions plugged into breaking news, while apps like theScore or FanDuel allow sports fans to curate their sports updates or dive into fantasy leagues.
While most major leagues, like the NFL and MLB, are private organizations that aren’t responsible for disclosing revenue, it’s clear by taking a look at individual franchises that the major leagues aren’t just about taking home championships—they’re also multi-billion dollar business ventures.
In 2019, the total revenue from all 32 teams affiliated with the NFL was $15.26 billion. The MLB brought in $10.7 billion, the NBA just under $9 billion, and the NHL at just over $5 billion.
For comparison’s sake, England’s Premier League is the highest-grossing soccer league in the world. In the same year. They brought in £2.46 billion, the equivalent of $3.2 billion, despite being more popular amongst fans worldwide.
Long Wait Lists
To gain a franchise tag with any of the US’s top sports leagues is a difficult task that requires more than the basics of sports communication. While David Beckham is currently attempting to make waves with a new MLS franchise in Miami, it’s taken him upwards of 13 years to accomplish this feat.
Not only are there extensive waitlists that involve adding a new team to a major league, but there are also insane fines. In the 1920s, it cost around $100 to start a new franchise in the NFL or MLB. Today, it can cost around $1 billion.
Those interested need to bring together a crack team of investors that can woo big-name sponsors to tack onto stadiums, like Allegiant Stadium (new to Las Vegas) or the Fed-Ex Stadium in Washington DC.
Those looking to capitalize on an expansion team, common in developing leagues like the NHL and MLS, will need to wait upwards of a decade as leagues restructure in preparation of new teams (see Beckham’s Inter Miami squad above).
Innovation & Championship Trophies
To rise to the top of a league, each team needs to innovate through technology via mobile apps and stadiums. For example, nearly half of all MLB franchises are worth $1.5 billion or more. The Yankees top that list, relying on New York City broadcasting deals as well as their fan experience at the famous Yankee Stadium.
As sports betting becomes more commonplace inside stadiums, the MLB will likely look for a way to partner with reputable companies. At the moment, MLB betting offers online are becoming more popular with fans of America’s favorite past time, but they could be an in-person stopover soon.
In addition to offering in-person experiences like sports betting, franchises also keep their stadiums up to date with cutting edge ticketing and mapping technology that makes navigating easy, as well as top eateries and photo experiences that add an element of a novelty for those who aren’t diehard sports fans.
Aside from providing a seamless viewing experience for spectators, winning championships, and finding unique ways to brand a team help franchises increase in value. In other words, if a team can’t win, then they need to find a way to remain relevant to the general public.
In Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers NFL team is often the first thing the average American thinks about when they hear the state brought up—in fact, the Packers have a ten-year waitlist just for season tickets.
The easiest way to make a franchise memorable is to be the league’s dominant team like the Chicago Bulls did in the 80s-90s or the Colorado Avalanche in the late 90s. Today, basketball fans in Boston cling to the 70s Celtics run and continue to pour money into their franchise despite more than a few lackluster decades since. The NFL’s New England Patriots franchise will likely do the same for years to come.