WAKING UP TO SOCCER HYPE

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Soccer might be considered "hockey on Sominex," but the World Cup has the marketing community wide awake.

An exclusive poll of Advertising Age's "Daily Fax" subscribers found that while most respondents still consider soccer to be a snoozer, many plan on watching TV coverage of the U.S.-hosted tournament. And they're paying attention to national and regional promotions, too.

The survey, which triggered 156 responses, found that slightly more than half the respondents, 51%, had little interest in soccer before the 1994 World Cup. And more than a third, 37%, described their interest in soccer as "lukewarm." Only 13% said they consider themselves to be "hot, big fans."

But now that the games are here, respondents have had the chance to analyze the pre-game national promotions. Most agreed sponsors have lived up to their expectations, but that doesn't say a whole lot-considering the sport. Said one respondent: "Who expected anything?"

It appears die-hard fans did. The majority of that small but loyal group, 65%, felt there wasn't as much pre-game hype as they had expected.

Most of the respondents said they felt local marketing tie-ins will contribute to World Cup attendance and viewership in the U.S.

But not all. Said one respondent: "I'm amazed at the complete apathy most people in Dallas are exhibiting-you wouldn't know that we are a host city!"

Apathy isn't present in the avid fans. Three-fourths of them plan to attend the games and all will watch coverage on TV.

Although most "lukewarm" fans don't plan to see the games in person, 71% do plan to catch them on TV.

And most of those who were totally disinterested in soccer before the World Cup made it stateside continue to be just that: 92% said they won't attend any of the games.

The World Cup has scored with this group in one respect, however. While the majority of the people who have no interest in soccer-62%-won't watch the games on TV, 29% will. And 9% are still undecided.

As for helping soccer achieve "major sports" status in this country, a major goal of soccer officials and World Cup planners: The "die-hards" were split three ways, with 30% feeling it would, 35% saying it wouldn't and the remainder undecided.

The opinions of the rest perhaps were best captured by the respondent who said: "What? Are you kidding?"

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