Hardcore in Big D

One of the big business stories of the day was the announcement that FC Dallas’ season ticket sales are projected to be up 300% year over year.  The team is coming off of a year when the team reached the MLS Cup final, yet averaged less than 11k per game at Pizza Hut Park.  The team has never had a full season jersey sponsor, yet there are reports that there are multiple companies competing for a place on the team’s jersey.  Dallas has long been criticized for its business efforts, but 2011 is a critical year for the franchise.  Last March we conducted an anecdote based survey in Dallas about the team’s  marketing effort and here is what we said:

Almost everyone we met had heard of Pizza Hut Park, but nobody had every been there.  Most associated Pizza Hut Park with the Roughriders, a Double A baseball team playing at Dr. Pepper Park in Frisco, TX (same location as Pizza Hut Park).   We spoke with season ticket holders for the Mavericks, Stars and Cowboys, all of whom knew nobody that had seen an FC Dallas game, yet almost everyone knew about the team.  Everyone we spoke with was shocked that FC Dallas struggled to fill the stadium; they all mentioned how popular soccer is in Texas.  Interestingly, almost everyone we spoke with knew where the stadium is located, knew how to get there and said it was “close.”We saw no advertising for the team, whether on signs, buses, television or newspapers.  There was no evidence of FC Dallas merchandise at Dallas-Forth Worth airport and we heard no commercials on the radio for upcoming games or events.

In the most recent edition of Sports Business Journal, President and CEO of FC Dallas, Doug Quinn, discussed the team’s efforts to reach out to hard core fans in 2011.  The team has more than doubled its ticket sales staff and is promoting multi-game plans targeted to younger fans who undertstand the nuance of soccer fan-dom.  Dallas is a long proud franchise that saw its attendance continue to decline last year to third lowest in the league.  The team seems to have a solid plan in place to turn its success on the field into success in the stands.  As we said, this is a critical year for FC Dallas, and team is late to the “hard core” party, but recognizing that the younger group is the key to sustaning fan support is key.