Marketing in America: An Interview with Trevor Bolliger of SoccerPro.com

As part of our ongoing series looking at marketing soccer products in the United States, we recently had a chat with Trevor Bolliger of SoccerPro.com.  Among other titles, Mr. Bolliger is the Online Marketing Ambassador for SoccerPro.com and has been with the company for more than 1.5 years.  SoccerPro.com is a leading U.S. based seller of soccer goods to fans and clubs and they sell items ranging from shoes to balls to team jerseys and more.  Mr. Bolliger provides some interesting insight into the marketing of these products in the US (including a look at target markets) and the relative popularity of MLS licensed gear.  Thanks to Mr. Bolliger.

Footiebusiness.com: What is unique about the Soccerpro site? What types of goods do you offer?

Trevor Bolliger: SoccerPro definitely isn’t the only online soccer specialty retailer. What separates SoccerPro from the others in our industry is our desire to go beyond providing the customer with the gear or apparel they want. Rather, we want to engage the soccer community through other channels. Some of our endeavors include SoccerGrow, our charity that uses our resources to assist those in need around the globe. We also recently gave away a $1000 scholarship to a collegiate soccer player after sorting through over two thousand applicants. We’re also serious about social media. We understand that the internet is changing and that relationships between a customer and a website are much more than they were two years ago. The long and short of our social media plan is that we know people can see through BS so rather than paint a façade, we communicate with them as our regular selves. One of the things about SoccerPro.com of which I am most proud is that we offer free shipping on all orders over $50. We decided $50 because the vast majority of our orders are over $50. We offer soccer gear for soccer players, replica soccer apparel and merchandise for soccer fans, and equipment for referees, coaches, and parents. Our two most popular categories are our soccer shoe section and our replica soccer jerseys category.

FB: Who is your target market? What advertising do you do to reach that market? How do customers find your site?

TB: Our target market is the 18-35 year old demographic, and it usually leans toward being a mostly male audience. We also get a lot of parents shopping for their kids. The two biggest audiences we have are soccer fans and soccer players. It can be difficult to juggle talking to both of them, but we’ve learned that there is a lot of overlap. All of our advertising is online advertising, with the small exception of local advertising that we use to promote our physical location in Columbia, MO. We stray away from obnoxious banner ads and try to create unique and interesting content online by having bloggers write about our site or holding contests to give away gift certificates or gear. We have also dabbled in some Facebook ads. People find our site from a variety of locations. Some people come in from search engines, and others come from shopping-aggregate sites. Recently we’ve seen an increase in word-of-mouth references of people who come directly to our homepage URL.

FB: In looking at your site, I noticed that you only offer jerseys for certain MLS clubs (e.g. New England Revolution are missing). How do you decide what jerseys/team gear to offer?

TB: We love the MLS. One of our founders used to play for the MLS. The biggest problem we’ve had carrying MLS jerseys is that they do not sell as well as Premier League or La Liga jerseys. We have grown nearly exponentially every year since we opened in 2004 and every year we get more and more styles of jerseys in from around the world. For example, we will be carrying more jerseys than we ever have before for the 2010 World Cup. For now we choose to order jerseys from teams that we know or predict will sell. In the future we hope to expand our MLS selection.

FB: What percentage of your sales come from the US? Of those sales, what percentage are MLS related?

TB: Almost 100% of our sales are from the US, but we do get orders from Canada. This past summer we dabbled in international shipping, but found that it wasn’t as productive as we had hoped. We still send special deliveries across the pond. While I don’t have an exact percent of how much MLS sales we conduct, I can tell you that Premier League and La Liga league jerseys outsell MLS jerseys constantly.

FB: Does SoccerPro work with youth clubs to offer bulk discounts to outfit the entire club? If not, is that something that you are interested in pursuing?

TB: SoccerPro does work with clubs and teams to provide bulk discounts. Many team items on our site (such as uniforms, bags, etc.) already include the bulk discounts. We do have a team order manager to personally assist coaches/managers with their purchases.

Thanks to Mr. Bolliger for his interesting insight into marketing soccer products in the U.S. and for providing background on SoccerPro.com

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