We have previously posted on Houston’s promotional and marketing efforts. Now with Manchester United about to kick off in Houston for the All Star Game, we thought we should check in with Dynamo Senior VP Rocky Harris about efforts to capitalize on the Red Devils’ trip to Houston and on some of the other marketing initiatives. Mr. Harris has been with the Dynamo for about one year following a six year stint in the N.F.L. with San Francisco and Houston. Thanks to Mr. Harris.
Footiebusiness.com: Soccer has seemingly reached new heights of popularity this Summer in the United States. What steps are the Dynamo taking to capitalize on that popularity in marketing the team?
Rocky Harris: We created a marketing campaign called “The Summer of Soccer” to attempt to tie all of the soccer events together for the general market: MLS games, World Cup viewing parties, SuperLiga, US Open Cup, Dynamo Charities Cup and the 2010 AT&T MLS All-Star game featuring Manchester United. Our entire marketing plan has been built around capitalizing on the World Cup and the All-Star game. In soccer, you only have this opportunity every four years and we didn’t want to miss the chance to connect with international soccer fans and turn them into Dynamo and MLS fans. We intentionally went after major international soccer clubs for the All-Star game to maximize on the soccer buzz in the general market from the World Cup. We were lucky to land Manchester United and capitalize on the bounce from the World Cup.
FB: The Dynamo are moving towards the opening of a new stadium. What is the status of those efforts? How do the efforts to open a stadium impact your marketing strategies? How will the new location impact your fanbase?
RH: We fully expect to break ground on our downtown stadium by the end of this year and move into the new building in 2012. Our marketing strategy will definitely shift to address the opportunity to attract a few segments that have been difficult to reach by playing in an antiquated college football stadium in Houston’s 3rd Ward. Currently, MLS is known for its youth soccer fanbase and the Hispanic fanbase. We are going to focus our efforts on attracting three new segments that we think can grow exponentially: corporate community, international soccer fans and the urban 18-34 year-old male.
FB: On Footiebusiness.com we’ve written about the amigofreekick.com web page. What can you tell us about that page? What efforts do the Dynamo make to drive traffic to the site? How successful is the site?
RH: Amigo Energy is on the forefront of driving the avid tribe of soccer fans to connect with their brand. They were smart to launch their brand in Houston with the Dynamo jersey sponsorship because they were an unknown entity before the launch. Since then, they have done a fantastic job activating their multimillion dollar investment by acquiring new customers at Dynamo games/events and utilizing technology to further connect with our fanbase. Amigo Energy wants to be the top electricity choice, not just among Dynamo fans, but among all soccer enthusiasts. We came up with the Amigofreekick.com concept to utilize Amigo’s sponsorship assets to better connect with Dynamo fans and reward them for visiting the site. We transferred all of our promotional touchpoints, including web/broadcast/in-game/PR, and all of Amigo’s contractual assets, to promote the contest. Amigo Energy is pleased with the results from the promotion, including: web traffic, opt-in information, and acquisition of new customers and retention of current customers.
FB: Manchester United is coming to play the MLS All Stars in Houston. What is the team doing off the field to capture some of the soccer fans who are coming to see Man U, but haven’t embraced the Dynamo/MLS? What steps will the Dynamo take on the day of the game to bring those types of fans back to the Dynamo?
RH: I was an international soccer fan before I became an MLS fan and it took a lot for me to convert. You have to do everything you can to show international soccer fans that we are playing the same game and try to convince them that they need to support their local team, in addition to their favorite international team. I always tell international soccer fans that we aren’t trying to replace their favorite or hometown team, but instead support the growth of soccer in Houston. I also tell them to attend our games so they can celebrate the game of soccer – live – the way it is supposed to be watched. As far as the All-Star game is concerned, we have multiple ancillary events to support the match, including: 5K Run with over 1500 participants, Film Festival, All-Star Kickoff Party, Celebrity Soccer Match, Soccer Jam, Brian Ching postgame party and many charitable events. In my opinion, the most important way to connect with international soccer fans is through the play on the pitch, because the product is the most critical component of growing our fanbase. If the All-Stars are entertaining and put on a good show, we will gain new fans.
FB: Similar question for SuperLiga. Have you noticed any correlation between Superliga/Champions League participation and an increase in interest in the Dynamo? What efforts has the team made to turn that interest into ticket sales during the MLS season? What efforts have been most successful.
RH: SuperLiga has been a very successful tournament for us in the past because it gave us an opportunity to show Mexican soccer fans that the Dynamo can compete with the best teams in Mexico. Our success in that tournament has helped us build credibility in the Hispanic market and allowed us to convert fans to support the Dynamo. Our MLS business is up this year and we think the buzz around soccer is going to allow us to hit some of our biggest numbers in the second half of the season.