Here's how ludicrously valuable -- or over-valued, depending on your view -- soccer sponsorships are right now. Although the New York Cosmos haven't existed since 1985, don't have a team or a stadium, and will need about $325 million in order to create a Major League Soccer franchise, they already have a sponsor, a web site, and the services of Brazil/Cosmos legend Pele and Manchester United's mercurial -- and slightly bonkers -- former striker Eric Cantona (pictured).
In their first incarnation, the Cosmos died in bankruptcy despite filling Giants' stadium to its 80,000 capacity. Somehow, the management team that currently controls the rights to the Cosmos' intellectual property believes the "Cosmos" name is valuable enough to avoid a repetition of history.
The Cosmos have attracted a veritable management dream team: former Tottenham Hotspur director Paul Kemsley, former Liverpool F.C. CEO Rick Parry, David Beckham's personal manager Terry Byrne and former LA Galaxy coach Cobi Jones.
Fame is not enough
But mere fame is not what it takes to run a football club at a profit. To avoid bankruptcy a second time, the team must somehow earn back an MLS franchise buy-in fee of about $75 million and, in theory, come up with the costs of a $250 million stadium of their own.
That's a big ask. New York already has a soccer team, the New York Red Bulls, that gets an average gate of about 17,000 people who pay roughly $25 a ticket. That club's beverage company owner paid $285 million to build a new stadium in Harrison, N.J., thus relieving the actual team of having to generate enough money to pay for it.
There are other revenue sources, of course, including TV and stadium sponsorships. But ultimately the Cosmos -- like any team -- have to extract their revenues from the audience they serve. That value could be created from tickets, shirt sales, TV rights and the sale of sponsorships, but it's still a mountain to climb: If the Cosmos were to repeat the attendance success of the Red Bulls they would need to generate more than $19,000 from each fan, over time, to get their $325 million back.
Looks like the Cosmos will be sharing a field with the Red Bulls (or some other local team) if they are to become anything more than a pipe dream stoked by men whose glory days are behind them.