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How Newcastle United Can Conquer America (And The World)

11 years ago

American fans of Newcastle United were taken aback last week by news of the club’s aspirations to arrange a pre-season tour next summer in Brazil.

Brazil offers as a Premier League market and what the upcoming World Cup in Rio has to do with it is anyone’s guess, especially when compared to the finally awakening giant that is soccer in the US.

Don’t get me wrong: Marketing of Premier League football to the American audience tends to veer between careless and clueless, so we’re thrilled to hear Newcastle talk of globalization at all. “We’re a great national brand,” Derek Llambias told the Journal’s Mark Douglas.“We’ve got a touch overseas, which is great but it’s not global and this whole brand needs to be global. That’s our next target over the next three or four years – to try and get sponsorships in a global environment. Maybe that puts another player on the pitch.”

Music to our ears but Earth to Newcastle: Brazil already consumes plenty of football. And World Cup fever is as likely to drown out your message as amplify it, if the sensory overload from the run-up to our ’94 Cup is any lesson.

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Granted, we out-of-Toon American Mags have the most ulterior of motives in wanting Newcastle to centre its globalization efforts on the US. Newcastle’s 2011 summer tour was like a dream come true for us and we can’t wait for a return. Our personal bias aside, though, it’s hard to ignore long-predicted facts like this, culled in part from a recent article on ESPN’s excellent ESPNFC site:

•          Among Americans under 25 years of age, professional soccer is now the second-favourite sport to follow, behind only the behemoth that is NFL football.

•          MLS is now drawing more fans per game than the NBA and NHL in the US. Pro football(NFL) is the stated favorite sport of 25 percent of Americans, but at 10 percent pro soccer is edging toward pro basketball at 14.4 percent and Major League Baseball with 13.9 percent – despite almost no media or marketing presence outside the 16 American cities in which MLS operates.

•          Downturn aside, the US still has the world’s largest economy – twice as big as No. 2 (China) and more than six times as large as Brazil. What’s more, 85 percent of us Americans call ourselves sports fans. We’re the most sports-crazy nation on the globe, bar none.

These are the reasons big European clubs, including Newcastle’s Premier League rivals, are coming back and back and back to America. NUFC might want to claim its slice of this sizeable pie before others have gorged on it. For now there’s plenty left and we think Americans might develop a taste for the Toon’s particular flavour, if they can get enough of a sample. On our blog we’ve outlined four advantages Newcastle has in marketing to the US audience:

•          The unparalleled passion of Newcastle’s supporters, which appeals to American fans who are looking for an experience that’s more tribal rather than merely social, as is the experience in interruption-filled American sports like baseball and NFL football.

•          Strong American name recognition thanks to a certain beer that’s popular here and being marketed ever harder to the US audience (which is amusingly confused at Newcastle Brown Ale’s new “No Bollocks” ad slogan here). Americans watch sports in bars and most every bar already has a big, lighted sign that says NEWCASTLE.

•          The classic black-and-white kits and graphics, which are rare in gaudier American sport.

•          The underdog factor. Attitudes in Newcastle may be mixed on Mike Ashley, who’s viewed as an outsider by native fans. But Americans are more likely to gravitate to an English club that’s owned by an Englishman rather than bankrolled by a mega-billionaire Russian or Sheik. Americans have no more cherished belief than the ability of anyone to get to the top and we adore the self-made man, as opposed to someone born atop a pile of oil. Say what you will about Ashley, he fits the self-made description, and the club he owns is fitting it too.

To put it another way: Brazil, really? Hello? HELLOOOOO! If Newcastle United is truly interested in tapping a burgeoning foreign audience primed right now to choose Premier League allegiances, management should look to North America, not South. Nothing would please the emerging American Toon Army more than to help put another player (or several) on Newcastle’s pitch, and give something back to the club we’re growing to love more by the day.

Thanks to Bob Schwoch who is one of the three man team who produce the excellent I Wish I Was A Geordie – The blog of Newcastle United in the United States.

For those of us born into the Newcastle United way of life I think it is fascinating to hear why people actually CHOOSE to follow our magnificent, but mad, football club. Bob and his two cohorts, Matt Feltz and Tom Ziemer, have taken up our invitation to bring you the Stateside take on Newcastle United, on a regular/irregular basis. Check out their excellent blog now.

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