How FootballCo’s Jason Wagenheim is appealing to ‘soccer curious’ advertisers in the U.S.

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Formed in 2020 after TPG bought from DAZN, FootballCo has been steadily growing an international audience of soccer fans across its portfolio of nine brands.

But this year, FootballCo is making a concerted effort to appeal to the burgeoning fandom of U.S.-based soccer enthusiasts under the leadership of Jason Wagenheim, CEO, North America.

Wagenheim, previously the CRO of Bustle Digital Group, joined FootballCo having never before worked in sports media, but that’s what he said his bosses were interested in. Having led the advertising businesses for many lifestyle media companies in his career, Wagenheim said his goal is to convert “soccer curious” advertisers into active spenders by blending lifestyle and sports content into a video-dominant mix that appeals to non-sports native brands.

And with many global soccer sporting events coming up in North America over the next couple of years, culminating in the men’s World Cup in 2026, Wagenheim is hitting the ground running, using these tentpole moments to appeal to advertisers and audiences alike in this market.

Below are highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

The Ted Lasso of soccer media

Being a relatively new fan to the sport as well. I grew up playing soccer, all through high school, and I played recreationally in college, and I’ve been a fan casually. … They hired me without a big sports publishing background.

The owners of TPG [the parent company of FootballCo] and my boss, Juan Delgado, who runs the company out of the U.K., I think they chose me out of women’s lifestyle, because if you think what the lifestyle category of publishers has done really, really well … is really great storytelling and packaging around lifestyle beats, like fashion, like music, like food — anything pop culture related.

Showcasing the soccer lifestyle

There’s so much opportunity to tell stories, but let’s use soccer as a backdrop for that storytelling. A lot of our strategy from the content output perspective is to create a version of [if] Vanity Fair just slammed into ESPN. How would we go deeper into player and fan communities to tell stories, what a player’s life looks like off the pitch? These are super interesting athletes, they’re very talented, they’ve got incredible social lives as much as they do on the pitch. Let’s start telling stories around players that aren’t just Lionel Messi.

About 80% of our output is social video for TikTok and Instagram and the other platforms, [and] 20% of our U.S. content output will be for the dotcom. … Sports and videos [are an] awesome combination. Advertisers are craving video more and our audience certainly is. We’ve had tremendous growth on the social platform since we just started nourishing the platforms with the U.S. content strategy in January. … We already reached about 30 million people in the U.S. [in 2023] and that was without even trying.

Selling to the soccer-curious advertisers

I’ve been wearing my CRO hat more than a CEO hat the first four or five months to just open the door and that proposition to the existing base of soccer advertisers who have already agreed that the sport is important.

But there are hundreds, if not a 1,000-plus advertisers like E.L.F. Cosmetics who have not yet decided that they either need a soccer strategy, or how to even create or go about one. And for those advertisers, we’re really positioning ourselves as a soccer [agency of record].

Imagine if we were an agency that specialized only in soccer, which we are to some degree, but we also happen to own the content. We own the distribution, we have the pipes as much as we have the creative and the strategy behind it all. So how do we go to them with a fully baked strategy to help them understand the levers and the tactics. … So by the time the World Cup is here in 2026, how do we help them show up to a point where it’s comfortable for them [and] it makes sense.

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