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Fox Sports Scores With Soccer

Sells out UEFA Champions League Final in record time
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Fox sold out its ad inventory for the UEFA Champions League Final in record time, clearing the decks a good six weeks before Chelsea and Bayern Munich will square off on May 19.

Ad sales executives confirmed that Fox moved the last of its UEFA Final inventory in early April. Two years ago, when Fox first went to market with the European soccer showcase, the ad sales team still had a few odd units on its hands just a few days before kickoff.

Pricing for this year’s UEFA Final was up by a double-digit percentage versus the 2011 match. Among the A-listers that have bought exclusive sponsorships in the broadcast are: Geico (pre-game show), Pizza Hut (halftime) and AT&T (post-game). Geico and Pizza Hut bought similar entitlement packages in 2011, while AT&T is replacing DirecTV.

Adidas, Dr. Pepper, Nike and Apple are all in for 30-second spots.

According to Mike Petruzzi, vp, ad sales, Fox Cable Sports, approximately 75 percent of the UEFA Final inventory will appear in-game. As soccer is unimpeded by timeouts and commercial breaks, the spots will air at the half and within two breaks that are scheduled before the kickoff. Ads also will run before the trophy presentation at the end of the match.

The quick sellout is testament to the power of the UEFA brand. The Final is one of the most-watched annual sporting events, averaging 178 million worldwide viewers each year. 

“There’s a growing awareness here, and the ratings reflect that,” said Todd Siegel, evp, ad sales, Fox Cable Sports. “Every year we’re bringing in 70 percent returning business, and the rest is first-time business.”

The stateside audience for the UEFA Final has grown in direct proportion to America’s appetite for the sport. In 2002, ESPN drew just 264,000 viewers with its coverage of the Real Madrid’s 2-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen; last year’s Barcelona-Manchester United showdown drew 2.6 million viewers to Fox.

Barça-Man U now stands as the highest-rated and most watched UEFA Final in U.S. history. In addition to the English-language broadcast, a simulcast on Fox Deportes delivered another 1.6 million viewers.

Having secured the rights to the UEFA tourney in 2009, Fox Sports renewed the package through 2014-15.

Fox’ coverage of the Final begins Saturday at 2 p.m. EDT. The Geico pre-game show kicks off at 1 p.m. Fox Deportes will once again air the Spanish-language broadcast.

The UEFA Final comes on the heels of Fox Sports’ wall-to-wall coverage of “Survival Sunday,” its designation for the final day of the Barclay’s Premier League season. On May 13, Fox siblings FX, Fox Deportes, Fox Soccer, FSN, Speed and Fuel TV will carry all nine matches, a showcase that will determine which three clubs will be relegated to the backwaters of League One. (Blackburn Rovers already have been kicked downstairs, following Monday’s 1-0 loss to Wigan.)

Pizza Hut will serve as presenting sponsor of Fox Sports’ Survival Sunday coverage. Other blue chippers include: Anheuser Busch, Volkswagen, Gatorade, Heineken, Nestle and Gillette.

The one match that will not be televised on a Fox Sports network is Manchester City-Queens Park. City clinches the Premiership with a win, while QPR could face relegation if it loses. ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes will carry this crucial match.

Along with the UEFA package and Premier League play, Fox Sports’ soccer portfolio includes Italy’s Serie A matches and the English-language rights to the four FIFA World Cup tournaments scheduled from 2015 to 2022.