Even Don Garber impresssed by the indestructible Cosmos brand

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I never know quite what to make of the Cosmos, the Poltergeist that never stops haunting our domestic soccer community.

I plan to write more about that in the near future. For now, I’ll just pass along something interesting that MLS commissioner Don Garber just said.

Garber was talking to myself and Marc Stein, co-host of our weekly radio show/podcast, Soccer Today. (I won’t scoop my own show by revealing too much of the interview. You’ll have to listen for yourself once the podcast is posted here, sometime after the show’s live presentation on Saturday morning, which can be heard here.)

I can say that we talked briefly about the Cosmos, the one-time North American Soccer League giant, a club with a brand that still resonates in force. And that’s the point … even leaders at the highest level of domestic soccer are still coming to a full understanding of how much weight the brand name carries.

Here’s a great example: Stein is a Manchester City zealot. Way before the day of new money and new success, he would make an annual pilgrimage to northern England to see his beloved Blues. Yes, even in the dark days as City fell ignominiously into England’s third tier, his love went unabated.

Point is, on his annual trips into England, as he collects City souvenirs, he sees fan shops still awash in Cosmos gear. Somehow, the Cosmos brand has always been bigger in England than in most American cities.

Meanwhile in New York, the strange places you might still spot the Cosmos name is a testament to effective guerilla marketing.

Garber, too, has had recent epiphanies on the sustained relevance of the brand, on its Terminator-like indestructability. He admitted as much, that he’s still learning how much brand recognition still exists, and that he might be recalibrating the global value of it all. That part, I found particularly interesting.

None of this means the Cosmos are returning soon to the Major League Soccer marketplace. There’s so, so much more involved. Essentially, the Cosmos entity exists only as the thinnest of outer shells. There really are no flesh and bones and guts about this beast. And that’s a big problem.

A brand does not a soccer team make. Not even close. Mostly, there needs to be money. From there, a structure, some well-directed leadership and, of course, a plan rooted in marketplace realities. (And probably some understanding that this thing has to be about MLS and larger considerations of soccer in this country – not just about catering to the Cosmos. But I’ll resist the temptation to wander off course here.)

It may not mean anything in the long run to MLS or to greater soccer concerns, but it truly is a wonder of modern branding, this undying Cosmos legacy.

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