Marketing in New England: Interview with Revs COO Brian Bilello

Earlier this week, we posted our Q&A with Timbers VP of Marketing Cory Dolich.  Today, we were fortunate to have Revs COO Brian Bilello answer some questions about the Revs marketing strategies and efforts.    The Revs have really amped up their online presence in the last couple of years and have started to aggressively use Twitter as a marketing tool.  Also, their new blogger initiative is very innovative and should provide a great forum for fans to connect with their team.  We last chatted with Mr. Bilello in April of 2009.  A copy of that interview is here.  Thanks to Mr. Bilello.

Footiebusiness.com: In a recent interview with the Sports Business Journal, you discussed the Revs’ decision to credential independent bloggers in 2011.  What is the motivation behind that decision?  Do you believe this will help the team better connect with its fans?  What will qualify a blogger for a credential?

Brian Bilello: In terms of team communication, we’re always exploring ways to better inform, entertain and service our fans. During the past few years, social media has opened new avenues for bloggers to increase their reach to fans. In our case, they can tweet an entry with #Revs or post it on our Facebook wall and have it seen by tens of thousands of Revolution fans. Given that bloggers now have this larger promotional platform, they are reaching more and more fans and becoming greater influences in the soccer community. We feel it’s important to help them get accurate information about the team, so that has been the basis for this new initiative. In terms of qualifying, we’ll be looking to first credential those who have existing blogs and who regularly write content. It will be somewhat of a work in progress as we get into the season and we launch the program. But as you can imagine, we won’t be able to credential 100 bloggers, so we may have to create a new accreditation process at some point.

FB: Similarly, how are the Revs utilizing social media?  Some teams are aggressively relying on Twitter, posting frequent training camp updates, linking to blog posts about the team and providing teasers about signings and ticket promotions, while others have been slower to adopt the technology. You are currently on Twitter as are members of the team’s communications staff.  How do you anticipate the team using Twitter and Facebook going forward?  Does the team have a policy on players using Twitter?

BB: In terms of Twitter and other social media tools, we’re going to continue to use them to update fans on the team, website content and events and give fans some snippets from behind the scenes. For me personally, it is a great way of getting real-time updates on soccer news as I follow all the relevant writers so when Kyle McCarthy or Grant Wahl post an article, I can see it right away. I also like the ability to be able to reach out to fans directly when they have questions about the team.

We don’t yet have any formal policies as they pertain to Facebook and Twitter with players. They are individuals and are, of course, free to do whatever they like, but we are in the process of creating suggested usage guidelines to help them navigate social media. That being said, we continually emphasize that commenting on Twitter or Facebook is the practically same as making an on-the-record statement to a reporter, so they need to be careful as to what they post or say.

FB: With respect to ticket promotions, last year the Revs used Groupon to sell more than 2,500 tickets to the Revs/Seattle game.  Do you anticipate using Groupon in 2011?  Is it possible to identify how many purchasers of that opportunity will become repeat visitors to Revs games? Does the team view that promotion as a success?  Should fans expect other game day promotions in 2011?

BB: We’re certainly looking to work with Groupon again in 2011 but we’re have to be careful not to devalue our tickets through vehicles like this. As a one-off, it’s nice to be able to give fans a free t-shirt or other value-added amenity, but I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to just start throwing such significant discounts out on a regular basis. There is no direct method of tracking GroupOn purchasers since they are fairly protective of their lists. (After all, that list is their business.) However, we used other incentives in the stadium that night to encourage them to sign up for our newsletter, so could communicate with them directly about the team and upcoming games. That promotion was certainly a success and we are looking at more promotions in 2011.

FB: What is the Revs rate of season ticket renewal for 2011?  Will the team announce its final season ticket numbers at some point during the season? What do the Revs offer as season ticket incentives?

BB: At this point we are at 82% with about two months to go in the process. Given past results, that will likely put us among the top 2-3 teams in the league for renewal percentage. That’s also off of a base that is essentially the median for the league.

We really try to provide our Season Ticket Holders the best service and benefits in the league, and this year especially they have rewarded us by coming back strong. Given our performance on the field last year, the success with our Season Ticket Holders renewals really speaks to the hard work done by our customer service team throughout the year. We offer a long list of benefits, including several exclusive STH events with owners, players and coaches, a dedicated parking lot, early stadium entry, discounts on additional tickets and pre-sale opportunities to events at Gillette Stadium (international soccer games, concerts, Patriots games, etc.), not to mention a great discount on their Revolution tickets versus face value. Ultimately, I look at our renewal success this year as a leap of faith by our Season Ticket Holders that we’re going to be better on the field.  Now it is our job to reward them for that faith.

FB: Finally, Commissioner Garber announced in November that a number of teams will announce jersey sponsors for 2011.  The Revs are one of the few remaining teams that have never had a jersey sponsor.  Do you view that as a lost revenue opportunity over the past few years?  Do you anticipate the Revs joining the list of teams with a jersey sponsor in 2011?

BB: Yes, it is a lost opportunity for us and we need to get a partnership finalized. We were very close this off-season, but it didn’t happen. We’re still in talks with a number of companies, but hard to put a timeline on it right now.

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23 Responses

  1. These interviews make me so mad. Bloggin etiquette? Sounds like Krafty doesn’t want to hear any dissent. If you average 6,000 this season, I’d be amazed and no you can’t count the corporate shills you PAY to bang drums. Hey, Biello: build an 18,000 seat stadium downtown and I’ll buy season tickets for me and my family EVERY YEAR FOR 100 YEARS. That’s a promise. And I’ve spoken to at least a half-dozen people who have made the same commitment. In the meantime, I’ll never buy one ticket for that lame garbage you currently call a “product”. The more money we give Krafty, the more aloof he becomes. Boycott, plain and simple. Gillette is the worst MLS stadium experience ever. Long live The Fort. Last bastion of real soccer fans in NE. Sell to NE Sports Ventures and let the Red Sox and Liverpool take over. Imagine the possibilities of 3 designated players, one from Portugal, one from Brazil, one from Ireland. A smattering of Africans and Haitians. A few hometown kids. The potential is huge. The owner is a coward (or broke). I suspect the latter. So sell.

  2. You know what would be awesome? Instead of focusing on blogging, and social media, and jersey sponsers, and all this other crap that has NOTHING DO TO WITH SOCCER, maybe the Revs FO could focus on putting together a team that doesn’t make its fans cringe every time it takes the field. Since the end of the disaster that was last season, the FO has not done a damn thing to improve the team. No DP’s, no legitimate off-season moves. Nothing to give its long suffering fans any indication that Kraft gives the Revs any more consideration other as a tax write-off.

    Maybe you wouldn’t have to work so hard to get people to come to the games if:
    1) The team didn’t play 40 G-d damn minutes from the nearest font of civilization.
    2) You fielded a team that people actually want to come see.

  3. Chuck – you know what? You are right on putting together a decent team – but that is Mike Burns’ job, not Bilello’s. Burns and Nicol both need to get their act together – or the Revs will become the Washington Generals of MLS. And as far as a downtown stadium is concerned, it’s going to take a change of ownership for that to happen. The Krafts are heavily invested in Patriot Place, and they are going to milk that investment for all its worth.

  4. Does the author of this blog (FootieBusiness) ever advise interview subjects to read the comments? Do you think the COO and the Revulsion FO ever read these things? Are we long-suffering fans just pining away for the days of Spider-Man? (just kidding)

    Maybe the COO should plot a coup.

    Kraft couldn’t care less about soccer. That being said, I refuse to rally in the streets over a team that plays in that passion-killing cave of a stadium.

  5. Eric:
    Yeah I know… This team just aggrevates me to noend. Everytime I’m on the website, get an e-mail from the team, or read one of these interviews/articles, it just makes me feel more and more like the Revs are just going through the motions.

    I know its not Bilello’s job to field a team. I just get annoyed because I feel like the Revs keep spending all this money on bullsh*t, rather than spending it on talent.

  6. You should see what they’re saying at MLS Rumors. Gave props to FootieBiz but trashing the REVS.

  7. More meaningless season-ticket renewal stats and Kraft-mandated happy-talk marketing-speak from the glorified retail manager Brian Bilello.

    The New England Revolution are an EMBARASSMENT both on and off the field.

    * A disinterested owner who pays lip-service to loving “the beautiful game”, but in actuality regards his MLS franchise as a way to fill dates at Gillette Stadium, keep his finger in the SUM pie, and stay on the radar to host US National Team matches and international friendlies.

    * A COO who is better suited to keeping the Patriots Pro Shop well-stocked with Wes Welker jerseys and “Pat Patriot” throwback caps than he is at successfully building a top-flight front-office team and putting together an effective marketing campaign. Sorry, but a team of scantily-clad bimbettes, poorly-conceived internet video montages, and annual season-ticket holder events that are nothing more than vehicles for excuse-making do not constitute successful marketing.

    * A director of player personnel who would be overtaxed purchasing oranges for Marlboro Youth Soccer.

    * A coach so handcuffed by the owner’s unwillingness to spend money for so long that he’s apparently now content to spout the party-line and go through the motions so long as it keeps him gainfully employed in a region of the country where his wife and children have put down roots.

    ENOUGH! The Kraft family has run the New England Revolution into the ground and likely salted the earth for pro soccer in the region in the process.

  8. @ Corbin:

    **applause**

    Well said sir.

  9. you guys are tough! I like the blogger outreach stuff and the use of Groupon. I think they are both good ideas.

    This is a business and sometimes fans forget that.

  10. Yes, professional soccer is a business.

    Funny how the soccer “business” for 11 of the other 17 MLS franchises – 14 of 17, if you include Chivas USA’s stadium-share and the pending facilities in Vancouver and Houston – includes getting soccer-specific stadia built. The Krafts pay lip-service to building such a facility, but the Revolution remains one of the 6 MLS sides – soon to be 4 – that don’t call a soccer-specific stadium home.

    Funny how the soccer “business” for 13 of the other 17 MLS franchises has, at one time or another, involved signing a designated player to a contract. The Revolution remain one of 4 MLS franchises yet to obtain such a player.

    So far as the Krafts are concerned, their true BUSINESSES are the paper and packaging company that Bob married into, the New England Patriots NFL franchise that they can’t seem to lavish enough attention and money on, and the glorified strip-mall known as Patriot Place.

    The Revolution? To Bob and Jonathan Kraft the Revolution are just a way to fill some otherwise empty dates at their state-of-the-art pointy-ball stadium.

    Bottom line? There’s BUSINESS and there’s “business”. To the Krafts, soccer is a “business”… and one they’re only willing to engage in half-measures to maintain.

  11. @Corbin, WELL PLAYED LAD! You utterly destroyed the CORPORATE SHILL ‘bon vivant’ – “You guys are tough”.

    We’re tough?!?!? WTF dude? This is BOSTON. A sports town. This is BOSTON. An INTERNATIONAL city.

    We’re tough??!?! No. We’re impatient and DEMANDING.

    Guess what?

    WE DESERVE TO BE.

    WE BUY THE TICKETS. Check that… We WOULD buy your tickets. But since you don’t give a shit about the fans or the players, why should we care about you?

    Steve, you sadden me. Biello, you have no sack. Kraft, I’d say you were blind to the potential, but I have a feeling you ARE BROKE. That’s the real secret here. You are BROKE.

    SELL to the Red Sox and Liverpool.

  12. I like Brian and I love the revs. That is all.

  13. Hey Josh, WE love the REVS too. It’s called TOUGH LOVE. Sometimes, when someone you love is sick and abusing themselves, you have to be straight with them. I’m sure Biello is behind a rock and hard place. I’m sure he’d do alot for the team if he could. It’s just not his decision. But sometimes the guy with limited power has to step up and make a stand. I love the REVS and it hurts to know they suck so bad and are the laughing stock. The Patriots were the same way long ago and Krafty seems to forget that. We want someone who CARES about soccer and who CARES about the Boston soccer fan. Its the guy at the top who we want out. Kraft can go join Mubarak. Give Biello a promotion so he can finally buy a player from Portugal.

  14. This has nothing to do with Bilello personally. He’s a nice guy. He’s also what Corbin says he is, a retail manager with limited power put in charge of a professional sports organization. The Pats don’t have the guy running the Wal-Mart on Route One in charge of their operations, why do we have to suffer through basically the same thing?

    If people didn’t love the Revs, why would they complain?

  15. I agree with prety much everything I’ve read, the Revs are grtting to be the laghing stock of the MLS I think the ownership doens’t care hello , Kraf I was a big Revs fan I still am but much less I just renewd my 4 game pack after soo many phone calls, like I mentioned before this team needs to generate some excitment, from what I see there isn’t much.

  16. […] Over the last couple of weeks, we posted our Q&A with Timbers VP of Marketing Cory Dolich and interview with Revs COO Brian Bilello.  Today, we are fortunate to have had an opportunity to chat with FC Dallas’ […]

  17. […] the last couple of weeks, we posted our Q&A with Timbers VP of Marketing Cory Dolich our interview with Revs COO Brian Bilello and our chat with FC Dallas Director of Marketing and Digital Media Justin McCord.  […]

  18. […] For more on what Mr. Bilello told us about the Revs plans to use social media a few months back, click here. […]

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