As the World Cup approached in the late spring of 2014, Americans became shockingly aware of a single glaring omission from the roster. Landon Donovan, the man who many referred to as “Captain America,” had been snubbed of a final opportunity to compete for his country in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The 2014 FIFA World Cup is arguably soccer’s biggest moment every 4 years in the United States, and the team was moving forward without their biggest star. For Donovan however, this sparked the beginning of a whole new set of opportunities for the veteran soccer star.
As they have done with the last 3 FIFA World Cups, EA Sports has launched a special edition of their hit soccer video game franchise “FIFA” to commemorate the event. This year EA took a unique approach to their American marketing efforts for the game – featuring Landon Donovan as their primary spokesperson. Now, this may seem like EA made quite the gaff using a player they thought would surely be included on the roster, but in reality they tactfully reacted to an opportunity. The EA sports commercial showcases Donovan in a slinky bathrobe consuming his morning coffee and playing the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil edition. Landon performs admirably in the ad and finishes the piece humming a soft tune with the lyrics “I’m not going to Brazil” that causes him to burst out in laughter. The concept for the advertisement is flawless. Despite not actually playing in the World Cup, Donovan didn’t have a lot of down time, working on several different ad campaigns including another TV ad for Neutrogena Men and working with ESPN as an analyst for their World Cup coverage.
With the growing popularity of the sport and the World Cup in the United States, soccer personalities are set to become lifelong celebrities and national heroes. We have seen the rise of Alexi Lalas, who was one of the original stars of US soccer, into the roles of analyst and television personality. Recently, personalities such as the Brazilian football legend Pelé have garnered endorsements with American brands like Subway. It appears for the first time that soccer stars could ultimately gain a meaningful presence in the cutthroat competition that is the American entertainment industry. The ease with which Landon followed suit to become an analyst like Lelas and former U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller opens the door for today’s new heroes like Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard to take their turn in the broadcast booth if they so choose.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup will come and go, but its ripple effects will be worth tracking. To that end the post-World Cup craze hasn’t been able to sustain intense prolonged interest in American Soccer and its personalities, but the good showing by the men’s national team this year and the Summer Olympic Games just 2 years away could prove to be just what the sport and its stars needs to gain traction in the eyes of the public.
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