MLS Taps Dentsu America to Leverage World Cup Hype

U.S. Soccer League to Pause Season During Sporting Event in Effort to Boost Interest

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Major League Soccer wants to use the hype surrounding the World Cup to help it sell tickets.

MLS has hired Dentsu America as its first creative agency of record, and its first assignment is to convert the excitement surrounding the world's biggest sporting event into increased interest in the U.S. soccer league.

"Our goal with this new campaign is to connect MLS and our clubs with World Cup fans and viewers in an authentic and meaningful way," said MLS Exec VP Kathy Carter.

In past World Cup years, MLS attendance has actually dipped, in part because the league continued to play during the tournament, when most soccer fans' attention was elsewhere. This year, it's taking a hiatus during the two opening weeks of the international competition.

A similar approach worked well for the National Hockey League this year.

The NHL paused its season during the Winter Olympics, and the riveting hockey tournament -- which culminated in a Canada-vs.-U.S. finale featuring two rosters stuffed with NHL stars -- boosted interest in the league when it returned.

MLS executives are hoping the interest in soccer piqued by the World Cup can keep their attendance numbers growing. The league's average attendance is up nearly 10% this season, aided in part by ticket prices that are significantly cheaper than those of other major sports leagues.

Dentsu's work, which will appear on television, print and billboard, is slated to run before, during and after the World Cup tournament, which starts June 11.

The tagline -- "It only takes 90 minutes for your world to change" -- bares some resemblance to Nike's epic "Write the Future" spot, which focused on how an instant on a soccer field can ripple through an increasingly connected world.

"Soccer is about community and tribalism. You're a part of something bigger. You're part of a movement," said Dentsu America CEO Will Travis. "Our goal is to bring that excitement to the local level and help energize this expanding league and its fan base."

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