No matter what happens on the pitch, Roger Bennett predicts his “Men in Blazers” will win the 2022 World Cup.
Bennett spoke to Front Office Sports about MIB’s content blitz and strategy ahead of his appearance in FOS’ Wednesday virtual summit, “Global Goals: The World Cup and Beyond.”
The MIB co-founder is planning over 150 hours of exclusive new programming around this year’s FIFA World Cup, featuring celebrity guests like Matthew McConaughey, women’s World Cup champion Kelley O’Hara, comedian John Oliver, and actor Matthew Rhys.
There will be daily podcasts, limited series, and watch-along shows, plus a content partnership with Twitch and merchandise collaborations with Todd Snyder and Umbro.
It’s all part of a strategy by Bennett and co-founder Michael Davies to prepare for the World Cup’s arrival on U.S. shores in four years. The U.S. explosion in soccer popularity that began with the 1994 World Cup, he says, will finally crest at the North American World Cup in 2026.
And Bennett’s MIB platform will be there to narrate and analyze every facet of the sport’s expansion over the next four years.
Since launching as a single podcast in 2010, MIB — which is returning for its ninth season on NBC Sports and Peacock this year — now reaches 30 million people per week across various platforms.
“We are just surfers on a massive wave. I think of myself a bit like Kelly Slater — but bald. He’s got much better hair than I could ever have,” says the British-born broadcaster, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2018.
“The 2026 World Cup is ultimately the opportunity: the number of brands coming in, the commercial investment…To see the game I love, football, grow in the nation I love, the United States, has been the dream of a lifetime.”
MIB’s multimedia strategy for the 2022 World Cup includes:
Limited series: Brendan Hunt, the Emmy Award-winning co-creator and star of “Ted Lasso,” will team with Bennett for a six-part series reliving every World Cup since 1994. On an eight-part ESPN+ series, Bennett is interviewing the biggest stars of the U.S. men’s national team including: Arsenal’s Matt Turner, Valencia’s Yunus Musah, and Celta Vigo’s Luca de La Torre. Meanwhile, Bennett and Tommy Vietor of “Pod Save America” recently launched a six-part series called “World Corrupt” on how Qatar improbably won the World Cup.
City-to-city tour: “Men in Blazers” will embark on a live “This Cup’s for You” tour sponsored by Budweiser. The plan calls for 10 live shows in 10 U.S. markets from Nov. 15-Dec. 13. The tour kicks off Nov. 15 in New York City, with special guests O’Hara, “Last Week Tonight” host Oliver. and Rhys from the hit FX show “The Americans.”
Watch-along shows with Twitch: MIB will host 17 live watchalong shows on Twitch during the World Cup. Each show will feature Bennett, Davies, and three special guests. The Oscar-winning McConaughey, co-owner of Austin FC, is the biggest celebrity guest.
Tournament podcasts: Over the 28 days of the World Cup, MIB is planning 22 tournament podcasts.
Merchandise: Menswear designer Todd Snyder and MIB have created a fashion collection for the “refined football fan” that blends American sportswear with football culture. MIB already dropped an Umbro collection commemorating the 1994 World Cup.
Bennett is proud of MIB’s growth. But he admits he’s also been the beneficiary of good timing.
When he and Davies launched MIB, there was a “dearth” of soccer programming in the U.S. Now there’s wide-ranging coverage of the Premier League and other leagues across multiple networks.
Everywhere you look, football fans can experience the beautiful game across TV, digital, and podcasts. MIB is able to book the biggest names in sports and entertainment as guests, including McConaughey, Oliver, Will Ferrell and Mark Cuban on their NBC show last season.
“It’s a Star Wars cantina,” Bennett said.