On Sunday afternoon, the Colorado Rapids will host their second game of the new season at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. In advance of that match, we caught up with Rapids Senior Director of Marketing and Entertainment Kieran Cain to talk about the Rapids’ marketing efforts, tickets sales and more. Mr. Cain is a 13 year veteran of the Rapids organization and after a start in ticket sales, he has moved through roles in ticket sales, community relations and game entertainment before coming to his current position.
Footibusiness.com: How have the Rapids utilized online avenues such as social networking sites to market the team? Do you find that these efforts increase interest in the Rapids or impact attendance?
Kieran Cain: We are very active….over the last three weeks we have had more growth online than any other MLS club in terms of how many friends we have added on face book….we have hired two new full time digital media personnel. This year we have taken a very proactive approach in to online technology, maximizing it where we can. Not just for the Rapids, but also for our stadium, for our youth academy teams and our adult leagues.
FB: The Rapids offer a number of benefits to season ticket holders including ticketless entry, “chalk talks”, designated parking and more. What other advantages do season ticket holders get? How do you promote these benefits to attract new season ticket holders?
KC: We’ve really ramped it up this year. Everyone has seen the economy, we really wanted to bend over backwards for our season ticket holders, we’ve got a new set of benefits this season for full season ticket holders. For instance, for the first time ever they have their own prices on the stadium menu which are significantly less than the average fan would pay. They have their own parking lots. We created a custom scarf for each season ticket holder. …In addition, there are several different experiences we offer on game day.
One of the big exciting things is that we really reward full season ticket holders with a kickback card. For every dollar they spend in the stadium they get an equal amount of points. They can redeem those for everything from jerseys to dinner with the coach to a trip to London with the team. They can turn them in this year, next year or let them build up.
Especially this year, there has been a big jump. We have upgraded many partials to fulls which has been a big objective. The only way they can get these is to be a full season ticket holder.
FB: How are your season ticket numbers as compared to prior seasons?
KC: We’re up. We have surpassed last year. Tickets are up. Given the economy, this is good news. We have a long way to go. We’d like to have a full house of season ticket holders. We are working on it every day.
FB: This is the 4th season in DSG Park and the stadium plays host to many events in addition to the Rapids. How does DSG Park create opportunities to market the Rapids? What does the team do to market those attending non-Rapids events at the stadium?
KC: We’ve got the building and facility year round. We are out there doing handouts at the gates, running scoreboard messages. There are high school games, rugby games. The biggest concert in the State of Colorado takes place at DSG. That is a great event to market. There are lots of cool marketing opportunities. Our stuff is everywhere, flyers, booths at the event. I control the scoreboard during the event to let people know what is going on and our street team is out there. In addition, we like to reward our fans because they can buy tickets to these events before the general public. There is synergy both ways.
FB: Last year the Rapids ran a promotion in August where the first 2,000 kids through the gate got a free soccer ball. Will the team run similar promotional events this year? How successful are these promotions in bringing fans to the stadium? How do you balance attracting “hard-core” fans versus families?
KC: They are very successful…but the problem that we have is that they are successful, but only for certain people. Some come for those promotions rather than focus on the game itself. We’ve made a concerted effort to do away with the promotions on game day and make the focus on the game itself. We are doing alot to appeal to the dedicated soccer fan. You wont see many of those promotions this year.
One of the big things we did this year…the first MLS team to do it, was to physically construct a family unfriendly section in our stadium. The whole side of the stadium that we completely retrofitted to appeal to our hard core supporters. It is something where we are encouraging adult only, drinking beer is allowed, having fun is allowed. It is something we promote. If you are a family, you can find where you want to sit.
FB: Although still in its infancy, Seattle is being trumpeted as a “model” franchise for purposes of marketing and fan outreach. Are their any lessons that an established franchise like Colorado can take from Seattle’s efforts?
KC: Sure. All the teams in the league have heard that success story. There are certain elements to their success. They set their club up right from the get go. They are very involved in their supporters group. They also have some of the benefits that we may not be directly benefiting from like a stadium directly downtown. They have bars that you can walk to which is something we would kill for. I think we talk regularly with those guys. We trade off going to each others games. There are lessons to be learned, but on the other hand they ask us for advice as well. It’s a two way street. Everybody is still learning.
FB: Finally, with the season about to being, are there any other marketing/branding efforts (either inside or outside the stadium) that Rapids’ fans should be on the lookout for?
KC: Our objective this year is that it is the year of the soccer fan. If you are living in Denver, we are your gateway to the World’s most passionate activity, whether you are a youth player, an adult player…we are going to be a conduit to that. We’ve already done a few things leading up to the season, some grassroots marketing events….I think we are the first team to have our games over the air and in HD all season. It is definitely trying to appeal to that soccer fan, if the club was appealing to the families in past years, they are going to see a difference this year.
Thanks to Mr. Cain for answering some questions.