Soccer Marketing: Golazo

Any number of products try and connect with soccer fans through official partnerships, event activation and commercial spots.  Typically, soccer related marketing is part of a much larger general interest campaign. Based in the Pacific Northwest,  Sports energy drink Golazo bucks that trend by focusing on the game of soccer.  We thought it would be worthwhile to talk to the folks at Golazo about their soccer marketing and their soccer inspired products.  Co-founder Richard Tait was kind enough to share his thoughts about the product and its relationship to the beautiful game.  Mr. Tait started at Microsoft before starting game maker Cranium.  He then started product incubator BoomBoom Brands out of which came Golazo.
Footiebusinesss: What is Golazo and what is the relationship between Golazo and the game of soccer?

Richard Tait: Golazo means super goal in Spanish, and is screamed in stadiums and living rooms all over the world. We saw the opportunity to create a passion brand for soccer with that level of enthusiasm and focus, but most importantly developing beverages that have functionality designed for the pitch and respond to the unique needs of the soccer community. For example, with our first product, Golazo All Natural Sports Energy, we discovered that soccer players were mixing Gatorade and Red Bull to have a boost of energy, but it tasted terrible and the ingredients were scary. We developed Golazo All Natural Sports Energy product with the more health conscious soccer player in mind, all natural, phenomenal Latin infused flavor and industry leading functionality. A true Golazo! http://vimeo.com/23393082

With the introduction of our Golazo All Natural Sports Hydration product once again we turned to the soccer players and fans to be our compass in the development of those products. To make it truly “gulp-able” and provide the functionality that soccer players needed, we crafted the unique combination of all natural hydration plus replenishment, with coconut water providing the needed potassium, all with fantastic flavor. There was nothing like it on the market and in taste tests we beat Gatorade 33 to 1.

Beyond the products, Golazo was an opportunity to create a culture and sense of movement that celebrates the game we love and its passionate fans.

FB: Who is Golazo’s target demographic for its product?  What marketing efforts are you making to reach that demographic?

RT: In the Northwest our customers fall into two categories, soccer enthusiasts who love to watch or play the beautiful game and are involved in the soccer lifestyle and those who are looking for healthier choices than what is offered in the marketplace today. We also have an incredible resonance with the Latino community given their passion for the game and the power of the Golazo name within their culture.

Our marketing has focused exclusively around those customers and their lifestyle, we launched at indoor soccer arenas, provided free products to amateur teams going to their games to show our support, sampled at Sounders and Timbers games to reach the soccer crazy fans in the Northwest, and built up our Facebook following to more than 20,000 fans with many being in far reaches of the world where they have not had the chance to taste the product but recognize the authenticity with which we are approaching the market with.

We also ensured our packaging spoke to our customers, incorporated Latin infused flavors like Mango-Limón, and used sports graphics. I will never forget the day we tested our logo with and without a ball integrated in it. The response was overwhelmingly in favor of the ball. The focus group explained that “with the ball in the logo, I know this product is for soccer players and not treating us like the a fifth or sixth sport”. Given this feedback, the ball stayed in.

Golazo also converted a car dealership to be our headquarters. It was important to us to have a three vs. three field in our office. It’s a 28,000 square ft. facility that we have turned into soccer central. During one event, we hosted 1,000 soccer players and fans in our office space celebrating our shared love for the game. http://vimeo.com/19455433

Having that focus in our customer base and in our marketing has generated great business results ensuring we are sold where our core customers want to shop. Beyond the indoor arenas mentioned above, we are currently in more than 800 retailers including Whole Foods, New Seasons, QFC and Fiesta Foods, and available nationwide on Amazon.com http://Amazon.com. In just 250 days, our Golazo All Natural Sports Energy beverage is now the second best-selling energy drink on Amazon Fresh, a top performing energy drink at Pacific Northwest Whole Foods locations, and is selling better than 70 percent of the 460 SKUs at QFC stores in the Seattle/Tacoma area.

The introduction of our Golazo All Natural Sports Hydration beverage will allow us to build on that momentum with current customers, but given that its focus is on all natural hydration, it will broaden our appeal to the fast growing youth soccer movement providing a fantastic opportunity to grow our business.

FB: The Major League Soccer season and World Cup Qualifiers are around the corner.  What efforts will Golazo make to activate around either the league or the national team matches?

RT: There is no question that soccer fever will be building in 2012, and being in the soccer crazy Northwest means we will have some great marketing opportunities and also watch some great soccer! We will certainly focus on specific games to continue our sampling and outreach efforts and host viewing parties for away games, some of the great qualifiers, as well as Euro 2012, and, possibly, the Olympic Games.
These events are great because they provide an opportunity for us to connect with fellow soccer fans in an authentic way. Golazo was inspired by and created for the beautiful game, and most soccer people appreciate that. Our activation efforts have allowed us the privilege of working with The American Outlaws, the filmmakers behind The Jay DeMerit Story, and various MLS supporters groups in the region. As a company (we’re based in Seattle & our products are made in Portland), we are fortunate to be in an area where soccer courses through people’s veins and MLS thrives.  ECS & Timbers Army create such an incredible atmosphere at the stadiums! And we’ve been able to reward Golazo Nation (our faithful Facebook & Twitter fans and followers) with tickets to those games, as well as US National Team games, international friendlies, MLS Cup, and other soccer events. It’s fun, exciting, and rewarding to build a business focused on people who carry the flag of fútbol and are passionate about the game, no matter what club or country they support.

FB; Does Golazo have any formal relationships or partnerships with MLS or its franchises?  If yes, what is the nature of those relationships.  If no, are you exploring entering into such a relationship?

RT: We are certainly huge fans of MLS and the growth of the sport in this country, and support wherever we can. We’re Season Ticket Holders for the Sounders and Timbers, but have no sponsorship deal or anything like that.  While we don’t have a formalized business deal with the teams, we have tried to be supportive whenever possible at the stadium, through our social media, and with their charitable efforts and community outreach.
Beyond that, we’re making an effort to connect with the players on the Sounders & Timbers so that they know about the soccer passion brand in their backyard. Not just because the Golazo All Natural Energy and Hydration products are a great, soccer-specific alternative to what they may be consuming, but also because we want to find ways to collaborate with them on their charitable endeavors. It’s through those efforts that we’ve been able to work with and help raise awareness for great groups like America Scores, Street Soccer Seattle, and Kingdom Hope.

At the soul of our brand as a startup we want to be an advocate for the amateur player, the passionate fan, and groups that have the essence of soccer at their core, and that has been our focus.

Advertisements

Thr Monday After

As we discussed when commenting on the new MLS Spring destination in Arizona, preseason is a great opportunity to sell the sport and the league in a less formal setting.  MLS seems to be making use of this opportunity and allowing fans to connect to players and teams in the off season.  Over the weekend, the New York Times took a look at the league’s relationship with the City of Tucson, where a number of MLS franchises are spending a portion of the preseason.  Tucson used to be a destination for Spring baseball, but those days have ended.  According to the piece in the Times, the City is looking to MLS to fill the void.  ” the city is bracing for an economic lift — and a small measure of revenge — when six Major League Soccer teams arrive in the coming weeks to train here for the first time. Four of them — the Los Angeles Galaxy, the New England Revolution, the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake — will also compete in the Desert Diamond Cup, a two-week tournament that could draw as many as 50,000 fans…”

We’ve long discussed opportunity and need for MLS to capture the multitudes of American soccer fans that don’t follow the league.  This is never more obvious then when Mexico makes one of its regular trips to the US to play friendlies.  These games always outdraw USMNT matches and as this article points out, the tv ratings are through the roof.   If MLS could capture just some of those millions as regular viewers (either in English or Spanish), the league’s television revenue would increase dramatically.

Finally, MLS fans interested in getting a peek at their new television partner had an opportunity on Sunday night as NBC Sports Network provided a live telecast of the Olympic qualifying final.  Despite almost no mention of the game on the NBC Sports website, the telecast was fairly professional and the coverage picked up the large BC Place crowd in Vancouver.

Covering the Coverage

Preseason is heating up around the league, so we thought it would be worth checking to see if local papers are taking notice.  We’ll start in Salt Lake City, where the always excellent Michael Lewis offers up this detailed piece on the roster makeover for RSL.  The piece includes interviews and a look at some of the team’s injury problems for the coming year.  The Trib always offers outstanding coverage of the team and this preseason is no exception.

Salt Lake City isn’t the only market that gets great local newspaper coverage of her soccer team.  The Seattle Times offers a great article looking at the Sounders attack.  The piece focuses on the amount of offensive firepower returning to the Emerald City.

It’s not just recent additions to the league that are garnering attention in their local papers.  The Chicago Fire earned some ink in the Tribune with this substantive piece.  Interviews with Frank Klopas from the team’s training destination are included.

Finally, we’ll close in Kansas City, where the Star offers this take on Sporting’s 2012 depth.  The article includes interviews with Peter Vermes and players and takes a detailed look at the roster for the coming year.

Soccer Business Bits: ASG Announcement, RSL TV Deal & More

During a session with the media at the 2011 All Star Game in, Don Garber responded to a question from the Philadelphia media about the possibility of an All Star Game in the City of Brotherly Love.  The Commissioner suggested that Philly would soon host the event and now it is official that the 2012 version of the event will go forward at PPL Park.  On July 25, 2012 the MLS All Stars will play host to an unannounced foreign side.  Once again AT&T will be the title sponsor of the game and ESPN2 will carry the US English based broadcast.  The game will also be telecast in Spanish and in Canada.  ESPN will also make the game available live in over 100 countries.  Season ticket holders will have the first crack at tickets.

RSL has announced a new television deal that will bring all of its locally televised matches to the Salt Lake City market in HD.  The team’s partner is the local ABC/CW affiliate.  RSL will become the first team to have all of its local broadcasts on over the year television.  Per the RSL Tribune, ” 10 RSL games will air on KTVX-Ch. 4 and 20 on KUCW-Ch. 30. It’s a sign of the stations’ commitment that not only will Channel 4 pre-empt local newscasts for nine of those games, but also a total of 15 will pre-empt network programming.”

Finally, the initial ratings for the FOX live broadcast of Arsenal/Manchester United are in and the result was fairly disappointing.  The overnight rating failed to reach 1.0 and stopped at .9.  FOX’s broadcast of Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat of Chelsea on Nov. 20  delivered a 1.1 household rating, with 1.67 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.    That telecast was a re-broadcast and not live.

Critical Mention Update

Over the last year or so, we have discussed MLS’ efforts to measure the value of its television exposure through various local and national broadcasts.  Through the website criticalmention.com, MLS tries to alert media  to the “value” of its presence on various television programs.  Since a few weeks have passed since we last checked in on this metric, we thought providing a snapshot of this metric of MLS media exposure.

We’ll start with GoldenBalls, who is responsible for the rare soccer reference on E.  The Galaxy star re-upped for another two years with Los Angeles and the Entertainment network provided some footage of the press conference, Posh and Beckham’s kids.  MLS didn’t get a mention, but the Galaxy certainly did.  Team sponsor Herbalife also earned some free airtime thanks to their relationship with the team.  According to Critical Mention, the clip reached more than 280,000 viewers yet accounted for only $3300 in publicity for the league.  The broadcast aired at 7:00 a.m.

Elsewhere, the Seattle ABC affiliate offered more than one minute of Sounders coverage as part of their evening newscast.  The piece focused on the draft and included brief interviews with the team’s first two draft picks.  The sports anchor also announced the team’s home opener and footage of early preseason training was shown in the background.  Seattle is the 13th largest television market in the country.

Finally, the Kansas City ABC affiliate offered some coverage of Sporting’s recent signings.  The brief piece included some words from Peter Vermes and some game footage from last season.  The sportscaster also mentioned the start of camp.  The broadcast reached just about 5,000 people.  In total, Critical Mention picked up five clips that reached 413,000 people.

The Monday After

Lots of  business stories from the weekend. We’ll start with the broadcast of the Arsenal/Manchester United match televised, live on Fox.  The Sunday telecast was part of a large block of sports programming on the new FIFA partner that included the NFC Championship game from San Francisco.  Rob Stone anchored the pregame and halftime festivities, but the network relied upon its English crew for the play by play.  According to reports, the game was carried by more than 90% of Fox affiliates around the country.  In two weeks, Fox will again go live with the English Premier League as part of its Super Bowl Coverage.  Importantly, the network used the Championship game to promote its Super Bowl soccer telecast.

We’ll next move to Phoenix, were the US National Team hosted Venezuela in the first US Men’s match of 2012.  The game was played at University of Phoenix Stadium before more than 22k.  The match was not broadcast on English language television, but on ESPN3.com.  The broadcast was fairly disappointing but the duo will be back on ESPN3 for the upcoming match against Panama.  The was broadcast in Spanish on Galavision.

Even though MLS is still six weeks away from opening its season, the league was in the news all weekend thanks to top performances from some of its stars playing elsewhere this winter.  Robbie Keane scored twice in his first EPL game during the two month loan to Aston Villa, while former league stalwart Clint Dempsey managed three goals for Fulham.  Landon Donovan continued his strong run of form at Everton and David Beckham confirmed his return to MLS,.

Of Guest Posts and Mountaintops

Guest Post: I have Been to the Mountaintop: Rethinking Success for MLS

On the road tonight, so here is an encore of the most popular guest post in Footiebusiness history.  The original generated a significant amount of comments. Back live on Monday.

Once again, we are fortunate to have a guest post from Dave Laidig.  Dave is a contracts attorney for a large corporation who occasionally submits posts about soccer.  He resides in Minnesota, which is not an MLS market.  And he may be a little bitter about that.  Thanks to Dave for some great thoughts and insight.  Drop a comment below to continue the conversation. And yes, I will take any excuse to drop the Whalers logo into a post.
A unique cult exists, American in nature, that patiently awaits the day of revelation.  The day when the masses are converted to Soccer – the beautiful game.  That soccer incites global passions is a true as America’s relative ambivalence to the sport is puzzling.  For those accustomed to early morning pub crawls to catch global stars ply their trade on Europe’s pitches, talk often slurs toward the debate, “when will Soccer make it here.”  The bitter may wonder how soccer can ever make it in a land where the NFL is supreme, MLB owns nostalgia as America’s pastime, and NBA stars catch out attention with excessive locker room gunplay.  Others dreamily believe the next MLS star, or the next achievement for the national team, will yield soccer devotion similar to other countries.  But success is not a sporting achievement, or a marketing campaign.  Success is a self-sustaining league that is competitive with the top European leagues.  And the MLS can compete with the EPL, Serie A, La Liga, and the Bundesliga without replacing the NFL, MLB or the NBA.  In fact, it’s another domestic league – the National Hockey League (NHL) – that might provide a better benchmark for MLS to compare itself against.

An honest review of MLS should give hope for soccer, not a sense of futility.  First, it’s true, as soccer-haters point out, that American sports leagues are currently dominated by the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA).  However, league dominance does not last forever.  In 1967, baseball’s World Series was the pinnacle of American Sports, and the Superbowl was a blandly titled AFL-NFL championship game with tickets to spare.  Now, the World Series skips Mondays in order to avoid competing with a regular season NFL game.  Sport dominance does not necessarily last.

Second, Americans already support the best soccer players in the world.  Exhibition games with European teams – and often playing a significant number of reserves – typically average more than 30,000 fans, with Manchester United versus the MLS All-stars drawing 71,000 last summer.[1]  In fact, the 2010 World Cup final had higher TV ratings than the deciding game the World Series and game 7 of the NBA Finals.[2]  And importantly for comparison purposes, the World Cup finals did not involve American players and did not have an American centric time slot.  To argue that Americans do not support soccer is to ignore the facts.

Ultimately, if MLS had the resources of the NHL, America’s fourth-place sports league, then MLS can compete with European leagues for the best talent, leading to an American soccer boom.  The NHL institutes a salary cap of $59.4 Million, which if applied to a 23 man soccer club, would work out to about $2.5 Million per player.  While salary figures are notoriously sketchy for European soccer clubs, the average EPL salary has been reported as $2.3 Million per player. [3]  Thus, quick analysis supports the argument that the fourth best league in America could compete with top European leagues for players.

However, my salary daydream extends into hypothetical rosters available for $59 Million.  For starters, the combined guaranteed salary for last year’s MLS All-Star team was about $9.3 Million.[4]  The starting XI made up about $4.5 Million of the total.[5]  The fourteen alternates – including Bornstein who did not play due to injury – added another $4.8 Million.[6]  And who wouldn’t feel comfortable fielding the current MLS All-Stars, especially if they had time to develop into a cohesive unit.

And if the All-Stars were not appetizing enough, then we would still have $50 Million for players.  We could throw in Dimitar Berbetov ($6,700,000) and Diego Forlan ($7,169,746) for some attacking flavor.  We could then add Michael Essien ($5,500,000), Ji-Sung Park ($4,700,000) and Ryan Giggs ($6,300,000) to manage and spark the midfield.  And John O’Shea ($6,800,000) and Christian Chivu ($5,013,000) and keeper Petr Cech ($7,400,000) to back them up on defense.[7]  Similarly, my hypothetical also assumes that a Canadian team would acquire Nigel de Jong ($10,500,000) because Canadians’ respect the role of enforcer, and we could use someone to hate.  Of course, the reality of transfer fees would cut into the amount spent on player salaries.  But many would still watch a league that had these players scattered about.  And the key question is: how close are we to the day that these types of players play in MLS?

For that, we can look at our benchmark league, the NHL:

NHLMLS
Teams in League (2011)
30/18
U.S. Metro Areas in
Top 10/Top 30/10/17/8/12
Number of League Games
1,230/306
Avg game attendance (year)
17,151 (2010-2011)16,677 (2010)
Avg ticket price (year)
$54.25 (2010-2011)$22.47 (2007)
TV Deal
Versus-NBC
$70 M/year
(+ team specific deals)FSC
$6.25 M/year (est. 2011)
Looking at our benchmark league, the NHL and MLS have similar per game attendance levels.  But the NHL has four times as many games, at twice the average ticket price, and a better geographic footprint.  Further, the NHL has more revenue from its TV deals.

MLS may be able to leverage cup and champion’s league competitions to add more sports content, but more TV exposure and revenue will certainly affect the viability of the league.  And this leads to the chicken and egg metaphor in a sports context: what comes first, the audience or TV coverage?  Perhaps the answer is neither.  Solid investors/team owners and expansion could lead to greater exposure in more markets and greater TV value, just by geography alone.  With more TV revenue – and perhaps a few more games – revenue could justify higher player salaries.

Instead of chasing fans, the league should be chasing committed owners with expansion of the mind.  And the sales pitch to the moneyed investors?  MLS is close to becoming a world-class league; a league with the added benefit of a financially sustainable model.  As the increased fees for new franchises show, investors are interested in the last, great entrepreneurial opportunity in sports – getting value out of an underdeveloped global sport in the world’s largest consumer of sports entertainment.[8]  As an added incentive, MLS may be even more competitive over the next five years as UEFA’s financial fair play regulations attempt to drive down salaries in Europe.  Further, once MLS begins poaching players, the price of adding follow-on talent will drop as others will see that they can make money, challenge themselves, remain visible internationally, and know they will not be discriminated against come time for World Cup play.

I wouldn’t expect the MLS to announce an aggressive expansion strategy, as that might reduce potential fees for new teams, but I do hope the league focuses on identifying and supporting new investment groups.  If the league can find itself squarely set up with a handful of new markets in the next 7-8 years (as UEFA’s rules start to hurt European acquisitions), we might have Saturday afternoon pub crawls with slurred discussions of what is was like before soccer made it in America.

[1]  Murray, K., Cass to Keep City on Soccer Kick, Balt. Sun, Aug. 2, 2010 at 1D (52,000 for Manchester United v. Kansas City; 44,000 for Manchester United v.  Philadelphia; 33,000 for Manchester City v. Mexico’s Club America; 32,000 for Celtic v. Sporting Lisbon; and 27,000 for Club America v. San Luis FC).
[2]  Grathoff, P., MLS wants to capitalize on America’s interest in the World Cup, Kan. City Star, Jul. 13, 2010.
[3]  Premier League Salaries Skyrocket!, Apr. 10, 2010, available at http://soccer365.com/english_premiership/story_28410191410.php
[4]  MLS salaries are from the MLS Players Union.
[5]  The MLS All-Star staring XI consists of Donovan Ricketts ($160,000), Omar Gonzalez ($157,000), Chad Marshall ($320,000), Jamison Olave ($240,000), Kyle Beckerman ($250,000), Dwayne De Rosario ($443,750), Javier Morales ($252,500), Marco Pappa ($108,000), Guillermo Barros Schelotto ($241,250), Edson Buddle ($188,448), and Landon Donovan ($2,127,777.78).
[6]  The MLS All-Star reserves are Nick Rimando ($131,000), Kevin Alston ($124,000), Jonathan Bornstein ($100,000), Heath Pearce ($207,500), Wilman Conde ($200,000), Sebastien Le Toux ($122,000), David Ferreira ($300,000), Brad Davis ($258,062.54), Shalrie Joseph ($475,000), Jeff Larentowicz ($150,000), Bobby Convey ($307,500), Juan Pablo Angel ($1,918,000), Brian Ching ($350,000), and Jaime Moreno ($185,000).
[7]  All of these international players are the highest paid athletes in their country as reported by ESPN Magazine.  Best Paid Athletes from 181 Countries, ESPN Magazine, May 2, 2011 at 60-61.
[8]  The same arguments apply to the sports networks.  As demonstrated by the ratings for the last World Cup, a network that significantly invests in the MLS, and commits to promoting the sport, can find itself holding a top-shelf, internationally-recognized sports property.