Stories of the Year

Over the next couple of days (and in no particular order), we will present the top American soccer business stories of the year.  Early next week we will conduct a vote to see which of the entrants you think is the winner.  We’ll start with two entrants today, one in Portland and the other in Kansas City.

First Entrant

In their first season in Major League Soccer, the Portland Timbers generated fantastic local publicity while becoming a sensation in the national sports media for its passionate crowds, Timber Joey and national anthem. The team also featured great commercials with its Alaska Air partner that made waves around the web and was so successful at the gate that capacity was increased mid-season.  Newly renovated Jeld-Wen Field became an instant soccer retro classic (does that make any sense), while the team showed a strong ability to find corporate partners.  Team owner Merrit Paulson is a regular presence on Twitter, keeping fans apprised of transfer rumors and more. The team also generated enormous buzz with a clever billboard campaign that featured real fans plastered all over the City while immediately stoking the fires of their Pacific Northwest rivals in Seattle.  Of the two new teams in 2011, the Timber were the brightest on and off the field.

Second Entrant

Sporting Kansas City closed 2010 with a complete re-brand that included a name change and much more.  The team’s front office effectively communicated the change and the reasons for the switch to its fans and to the media.  Team representatives made themselves available to explain the new brand and the website effectively supported the message.  In 2011, the team moved into  beautiful new Livestrong Sporting Park and effectively paired the move with intriguing video tours, ticket sales options and more.  The team’s relationship with the renown LiveStrong charity generated a massive amount of publicity outside soccer media.  The team also efficiently handled the brief presence of Chad Ochocinco, generating more positive publicity for the club and team.  The team effectively managed its social media presence, ensuring that fans and media were kept apprised of important developments all season long.  Finally, the team shattered its own attendance mark, averaging more than 17, 600 for 2011.