Interview with RSL Director of Marketing Davy Ratchford

Last year, RSL surprised many in MLS  be winning the championship over the Galaxy.  Now firmly entrenched in Rio Tinto stadium while defending  its first championship, RSL is off to a great attendance start in 2010. RSL has consistently been one of the most innovative teams with respect to marketing and in-stadium programs and their attendance reflects those efforts.  As part of our ongoing series of interviews with MLS marketing personnel, RSL Director of Marketing Davy Ratchford was kind enough to chat with footiebusiness.  Thanks to Mr. Ratchford.  For our other 2010 interviews, click here.  For our 2009 interview with Mr. Ratchford, click here. RSL is the defending MLS Cup Champions. How does the championship factor into your efforts to market the 2010 season? What types of opportunities does the Championship offer when trying to market to potential season ticket holders and group ticket purchasers? Have you seen an increase in season ticket and group sales as a result.

Davy Ratchford: As the Champions, our advertising feels more legitimate. In my mind, the result validates the messaging that we’ve been using. We are the smallest market place in the league, yet we have some of the best attended games. I think the market place has bought into what we’ve been positioning. That RSL is their team, that the team is the star and that coming to our games will be the most exciting thing you can do that weekend. Winning allows us to more confidently sell and renew our season tickets. People can’t deny the product value. We have seen increased sales to season tickets. As an organization, we have lofty goals. We will never sit back and be content until we have the stadium full of season ticket holders. I think we’ll see most of the “championship” effect in our single game ticket sales, where more fans are curious about us and willing to test us out.

FB: RSL has made a concerted effort to showcase its trophy around the state of Utah. In addition to public relations value, how does this effort function as a marketing tool? Can you correlate these efforts to ticket sales?

DR: The Championship Cup Tour was an idea that we had that would allow us to take the cup to areas of the state that would never usually get a chance to see it. We recognized very early on that the community is the 12th man. That they helped us as much as anyone win this Championship and that the state should feel proud of what we’ve accomplished. We had over 75,000 people take their picture with the cup during the month long cup tour. We visited 56 schools and 154 other locations. It was a massive undertaking. The benefits have already paid off, especially in group sales. We have some communities that have never been to a game showing up in the hundreds. I believe the Cup Tour was the best grassroots marketing program we’ve ever done. It was great for sales and ever better for our brand position.

FB: RSL will be participating in the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time. Historically, this is a competition that has failed to draw significant interest in MLS markets. What steps is RSL planning to promote these additional matches and the tournament itself?

DR: The first thing we did was give a specific budget for these games. These games are as important to team and the organization as any other regular season game. Anytime you play an international game it brings experience and awareness to new markets. We hope that we get our fans out to support us in these matches. Our specific marketing plans will be solidified once the games are announced, but we will focus on radio promotions to get the word out. They’ve always been a big driver for our walk up and single game ticket sales.

FB: Last year you told us about RSL’s presence on Facebook and twitter. Are you intending to continue/expand these online efforts? Does marketing through social networking translate into tangible brand awareness?

DR: We have increased our social media base to over 22,000 people. It has become one of our most dramatic communication tools. We only have one team in the league that is ahead of us (not bad for the smallest market). We need to stay relevant in our content and we need to do a better job in selling tickets through Facebook. You will see some changes taking place in the next few weeks to make that happen.

Thanks again to Mr. Ratchford.