Tonight marks the commencement of the Copa America Centenario tournament, the 100th anniversary of the storied South American competition. However, all eyes will be on the United States as for the first time ever, the tournament will be held outside the Southern Hemisphere, pitting all 10 South American international teams against 6 of CONCACAF’s finest. While there are many articles and stories out there predicting which nation will hoist the trophy, and which stars you should watch during the largest competition held in America since the 1994 World Cup, how easy is it to predict the economic implications of this event?
Before Orlando, Florida was awarded the rights to host three group stage matches, its bidding effort launched some pretty bold estimates on how much impact just one game could have on the region. In the presentation by the Central Florida Sports Commission last March, $30 million to $50 million in revenue were projected figures depending on actual attendance. In many ways, Orlando has realistic data to use as a reference when conjuring these estimates based on its history as a host city during the 1994 World Cup. Some other projections were the possibilities of 10,000 international travelers visiting the city, as well as 40,000-45,000 room reservations for at least one night stays in local hotels. Orlando will host games on June 4, June 6, and June 8. Time will tell if these predictions become reality.
The host city in the Bay Area of California, Santa Clara, is currently in the epicenter of American Sports with the Golden State Warriors of basketball competing in the NBA Finals, and the San Jose Sharks of hockey competing in the Stanley Cup Finals. Tonight, Levi’s Stadium hosts the opening match between the United States and one of the favorites, Colombia. A reported 67,000 seats have been sold as of the morning of June 3. Considering the capacity is 70,000, local businesses should be very pleased at the turnout. Before San Francisco was awarded its bid, it projected a $139 million economic impact on the region based on the events. With the United States playing in the stadium, that number could reasonably grow even higher depending on the result.
From a sponsorship perspective, many big brands have hopped on the bandwagon to have their names associated with Copa America Centenario. Anheuser-Busch, Delta Airlines, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Sprint will all feature prominently in this tournament. Soccer United Marketing and IMG reportedly guaranteed the tournament organizers a minimum of $20 million for TV and sponsorship rights. Fox Sports paid $15 million for the privilege of English language rights, while Univision reportedly paid over $60 million for the Spanish language rights. Realistically, the TV ratings for the Spanish language viewers should be tremendous given all the star power. This proves once again that television reigns supreme in the sports world.
In short, the influx of international soccer fans, the passion of American soccer fans and the tourism revenue that will be present over the next month will be a spectacle that even the most passive sports fan can appreciate. Copa America is normally held every other year, so the normal schedule would dictate that after the 2015 iteration, the next tournament would not be held since 2017. To honor 100 years of the tournament (and cash in on the marketing implications of a South American competition on U.S. soil) an exception was made for 2016. The most amazing part of all this is that the tournament almost didn’t happen after investigators uncovered a bribery scandal involving the organizers in the first place.
In case you’re curious, I predict a Mexico victory over Argentina in the final.