Over the last few weeks we have posted a number of interviews with MLS Team executives regarding efforts to market their Clubs in the current economic and technological climate. Each team has unique circumstances that make their marketing and fan outreach efforts fascinating fodder for discussion and analysis. This week we touch base with Davy Ratchford, RSL’s Director of Marketing. RSL is in their first full season at Rio Tinto Stadium and brought huge crowds to their playoff games at Rio Tinto last year.
Thanks to Mr. Ratchford. Check out our other recent marketing interviews with Revolution COO Brian Bilello, Kansas City VP of Marketing and Communications Rob Thomson and Dynamo Senior Vice President Rocky Harris
Footiebusiness.com: What is RSL doing differently for marketing in 2009? How has the economy changed/impacted those efforts?
Davy Ratchford: Everyone is operating on tighter budgets. We’ve focused our marketing efforts around a segmented marketplace. Our mass media is focused on research driven statistics telling us what stations our prospects watch and listen. Although we are doing well, it is easy to see the economy’s effect when it comes to discretionary entertainment spending.
FB: RSL opened Rio Tinto Stadium last year. How does the presence of the new stadium change/impact marketing efforts? Is the stadium experience a marketing tool?
DR: Absolutely, when we opened the stadium at the end of the 2008 season, we had fantastic attendance which helped us both on the field and off. The experience that people had was captured and bottled into our 2009 pre-season marketing “where you there” campaign. We tried to remind people of what those few games’ magical moments were like.
Having a home to call our own brings a level of optimism in our marketing. But at the same time, we don’t want it to be just about the building. Our players and fans are the soul of our organization and the building helps us showcase that.
FB: How has RSL utilized online avenues such as social networking sites, SUM’s new online ad network, etc… to market the team? Do you find that these efforts increase interest in RSL or impact attendance?
DR: We actually do quite a few online promotions. We have a steady following on Facebook and our sales pods keep their clients informed via twitter. These avenues are the right price “free” and allow us to communicate to our fans in their comfort zone. We do a lot of online banner ads and have tracked some fantastic click through numbers.
FB: Unlike other MLS franchises, RSL plays in a city without competition from multiple “big four” sports franchises. How does that impact RSL’s media exposure and ability to generate interest through “free” exposure?
DR: The Jazz have been a great anchor for professional sports here in Utah for some time. As have the college sports teams at BYU and The University of Utah. Real Salt Lake is rebounding from some years of losing seasons and the media has started to embrace a 2nd professional sports team. We’ve negotiated some larger broadcast deals that allow us more coverage on local networks.
FB: Is it inconsistent/challenging for teams to target “hard core” supporters, non-soccer sports fans and families? How do you resolve those inconsistencies/challenges?
DR: I think it does become a challenge, but a good one to have. In our marketplace we have a certain market segment that is young, male and single. We also have married with 3 kids and we also have grandparents and grandkids. Having a broad marketplace does cause us to stretch our budgets across the spectrum to reach these differnt targets. The key is creating a good media mix that is atrractive to all of these groups. And to have a strategy in place to move them along in their commitment level towards us. We are happy to have folks come to one or two games a year, but our goal is for them to experience us and increase their connection to us.