WPS: Interview with Robert Penner

wpsOn March 29, Women’s Professional Soccer will kick-off its inaugural season with a nationally televised match-up at the Home Depot Center.  Pitting the Los Angeles Sol against the Washington Freedom, the opening match will feature Brazilian star Marta and U.S. National Team scorer Abby Wambach.

Rising from the ashes of the WUSA, the WPS is seeking to gain a permanent foothold in the U.S. sporting scene.  A  national TV deal, a partnership with MLS and a reduction in team costs are all part of the “new model” .  WPS director of communciations Robert Penner was kind of enough to chat with footiebusiness.com about some of the business aspects of the WPS.  Mr. Penner is a veteran of sports media and marketing and has worked with the A.T.P.,  U.S. Open and NBC.  Most recently, Mr. Penner worked with Puma, a founding partner of the WPS.

Footiebusiness.com: Who does WPS view as the target demographic? When affiliating with the League, who are your sponsors looking to reach?

Robert Penner: Our core demographic is of course the young female soccer player age 8-18 who plays at the club and recreational level, but we also want to reach their parents, fitness-minded women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, as well as soccer fans in general. With our world class product and athletes on the field, we think we can accomplish that. The sponsors that we have met with and those that have signed on with WPS, know that we can help deliver this hard-to-reach demographic to them through many different activation platforms.


FB: How does the media relationship with FSC differ from the media model pursued by the WUSA? What efforts are being made to secure local TV deals?

RP: First, we wanted a network that spoke to the core of what our league stands for, in this case world class soccer – so FSC was a great fit for us. In addition, we wanted appointment television so our fans know exactly when and where they can watch WPS every week. FSC has made the commitment to promote our league across their various media partners and online, so that was important to us. At the local level, we are working with two potential regional television partners and hope to know our regional TV schedule very soon.


FB: How closely will WPS work with MLS? What are the advantages/disadvantages of a close relationship?

RP: We have gained a tremendous amount of insights from MLS. They are our sales arm through our agreement with SUM, so officially we are business partners on the sales side of things. In other areas, there are overlapping synergies with operations for some teams and several teams share stadiums such as Chicago, Bay Area and Los Angeles. DC United and the Washington Freedom have announced several doubleheaders and our new franchise in Philadelphia has had a lot of discussions with the MLS Philadelphia franchise that is coming on board next year. There’s a lot we can learn from MLS, they’ve done a great job building their league to where it is today 13 years after their launch.


FB: What are the League’s goals/expectations for attendance/ratings in the first two years?

RP: We’ve said all along that we want to keep our expectations in check and we are shooting for 4,000-6,000 fans per game for the opening season, which we think is reasonable and will still make our league model profitable.


FB: We have heard about Amway’s deal with the Sol. Who is responsible for securing jersey sponsorship (i.e. the teams or the League)? Can we expect additional announcements about such sponsors prior to the season?

RP: Team shirt deals, the inventory on the front of the jerseys, is for sale by the teams. From what we’ve heard there have been some other fruitful discussions so we are hopeful that there will be other announcements over the course of the season.


Thanks to Robert Penner.  WPS opens play this weekend on FSC.

5 Responses

  1. this is definitelýthe better model. the relationship with MLS is key.

  2. […] game will be nationally televised on FSC and the rest of the League will open the following week.  Check out our interview with WPS Director of Communications Robert Penner for more on the WPS’ business model and […]

  3. […] of games this weekend with matches in New Jersey, California and Illinois.  In our interview with WPS Director of Communications, Robert Penner, Mr. Penner stated that the League was hoping for game day attendance between 4-6,000 per game.  […]

  4. […] targets over the first couple weeks.  Check out our interview with WPS Director Communications Robert Penner for more on MLS attendance goals and marketing efforts.  National advertisers like Corona and Puma […]

  5. […] earlier – during the critical off season campaigns for season ticket and group sales.  WPS’ stated attendance goal for the inaugural season was 4,000 to 6,000 paid tickets per game.  The clubs that neglected or botched the fundamentals of advance ticket sales during the winter […]

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