Marketing in MLS: Going with Groupon

One of the great business success stories of the last couple of years is the mass coupon site Groupon.  For those who don’t know, Groupon is a deal of the day website tied into major metropolitan areas.  Members are offered one coupon buying opportunity each day that offers a significant discount.  If they purchase the deal, they must adhere to the terms of the offer and typically must use the opportunity by a fixed date.

Last season, some MLS teams got in on the Groupon game.  The Galaxy offered half off ticket deals to their playoff games.  Purchasers were entitled to buy a VIP seat or a berm seat for either of the Galaxy’s home playoff games in 2010.  The deal was effective for the Galaxy, with 984 of the deals sold.   By way of comparison, the Galaxy also offered a Groupon deal for their July 4 game last year.  That deal offered tickets to the game and fireworks show for up to 61% off face value.  The team sold 109 of those deals.

The Galaxy weren’t the only team to try Groupon. RSL tried Groupon last year for the 7/31 match against DC United, and offered two tickets, a parking pass and two mini- back packs at a significantly reduced price.  The deal was purchased by 307 people.  The Revs offered a deep discount for fans for their September 4 match last year.  The package included a long sleeve shirt and a ticket for only $18.  The offer was also very successful, with the team selling more than 2,500 tickets through Groupon for that match. The Red Bulls tried Groupon in 2009.   173 people bought into the 42% discount. Chicago took a different tact this year, offering $400 season tickets for $150.  The deal sold out all 400 coupons that were available.

Is this a good marketing strategy for MLS?  We think so.  Groupon is exceptionally popular and its membership probably includes a significant amount of people outside the teams’ typical marketing targets.  While its impossible to determine how many of the purchasers would not have gone to the game without the deal, the offer likely got some people to the stadium that otherwise would not have been.  The numbers above show that the teams have enjoyed success through Groupon.   We will continue to monitor Groupon to see how aggressive teams are in 2011.