Selling Tickets in MLS

The draft is over, training camps are opening up and the season is less than two months away.  It has been a while since we looked at promotional efforts around the league, so we thought the early preseason presented a good opportunity to look at ticket sales efforts as teams gear up for the start of the 2012 campaign.  We’ll start in DC, where United is offering an autographed Dwayne DeRosario ball as part of its opening game ticket promotion.  The $118 package also includes 4 tickets to United’s March 10 home opener. The package is available at a number of higher price points and purchasers can get one ball for every four tickets purchased.

The Chicago Fire are offering a “Winter Four Pack” for their home opener.  The package comes with four tickets and four Fire scarves.  Tickets range from $92-$140 and does not include a shipping and handling fee for the scarves.

Teams aren’t only relying on ticket promotions to reach out to fans.  The always active RSL front office is throwing an open house as part of an effort to sell season tickets.  The team is opening Rio Tinto for a few hours on January 28, 2012 and will invite fans to tour the stadium, see the locker room and get photos in the facility.  Fans who successfully refer a new season ticket holder also get the benefit of a new RSL jersey.

 

 

Soccer Business Bits: Fire Deal Finalized, Soccer & Scouts & More

Yesterday we wrote about the yet to be announced Chicago Fire jersey sponsorship deal with Quaker Oats.  The relationship became official today.  One of the biggest changes from the rumors to the truth is the deal is now worth a reported $8 million over three years, significantly higher than the previously reported less than $5 million over that time.   The Fire did a credible job with the announcement and roll out, offering this clever video now available on YouTube.  You can see that video here.

As with many of the jersey sponsorships, the deal is reported to include a number of additional items including business and marketing initiatives.  TThe deal includes placement at the MLS Cup and All-star game and a relationship with the Fire youth program.  According to the Tribune, the Fire have been working with Quaker since last Summer’s Manchester United match to bring the deal to the end.

MLS recently announced a relationship with the Boy Scouts of America.  According to the press release, “scouts participating in MLS markets will be provided access to MLS players, coaches, league and club executives, and unique programming tailored to the Scouts. Future plans include an opportunity for Scouts to conduct community service projects and be selected for in-game ceremonies at MLS stadiums, for “Scout Nights” that support local councils in the recruiting and retention of Scouts, and for local MLS players and executives to partake in formal discussions with Scouts on topics such as fitness and leadership.”

Finally, FC Dallas has entered into a 15 year deal with Legends Hospitality Management to run concessions at FC Dallas Stadium. Legends is a joint venture of the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees.

 

Chicago Fire Jersey Sponsorship?

On Monday evening, Ed Sherman of Craine’s, broke the news that the Chicago Fire were nearing a $1.3-1.5 million dollar per year jersey sponsorship agreement with Quaker Oats. If the report is accurate, the new deal is a great score for a Fire franchise that went without a jersey sponsor in 2011 after Best Buy ended its relationship before the season started last year.

The finances of the deal are seemingly on the low side of those in place around the league.  On January 12, 2011, the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer announced a four year, $12 million dollar deal with Mexican food conglomerate Bimbo.   However, given how far MLS jersey deals have come (even in this down market), and that teams like FC Dallas and Colorado are still searching, a deal with Quaker would seem to be a winner for the Fire.  Last season, the BBC reported that seven EPL clubs carry sponsorship deals valued at less than $1.6 million dollars. According to a recent analysis conducted by SPORT + MARKT, the 18 remaining teams in La Liga (after Barcelona and Real Madrid are removed), average less than $2.5 million per jersey deal.  Similarly, with all 20 teams accounted for in France’s Ligue 1, the average jersey sponsorship is valued at less than $4 million dollars per team.

The Quaker Oats Company is one of the brands owned by PepsiCo and is based in Chicago.  A deal with Quaker would be a perfect fit for the Fire.  Quaker Oats is a local company with national cache that will be easily recognized at every venue around the country.  At the same time, this would seem to be a strange marriage for Quaker.  While some of the other PepsiCo brands would seem to be natural fits for the soccer demographic, Quaker Oats, despite its array of subsidiary brands, seemingly skews towards an older group.

The Monday After: Draft Wrap, CONCACAF Changes & More

The MLS SuperDraft is over and teams are now gearing up for the start of training camps later this month.  As typically happens this time of year, some of the best exposure for MLS came in the form of local newspaper articles about draftees.  By covering the success of their locals products, these hometown papers expose the league and its teams to new audiences that typically don’t receive coverage of soccer in their paper.  One great example is this piece from the Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal, the primary paper in Lancaster County, PA.  For the second time in as many years, Lancaster County has been home to one of the top picks in the MLS SuperDraft, and the paper has responded with solid coverage of both drafts.   The News Tribune in Tacoma Washington weighed in with this coverage of local product and Revolution draftee Kelyn Rowe.

CONCACAF announced changes last week to the C’hampions League format for the 2012/2013 version of the tournament.  The federation will do away with the “play-in” portion of the tournament, instead dividing the 24 teams into groups of 3.  One first place team will emerge from each group and enter the quarterfinals.  This will significantly reduce travel costs for the teams and will likely ensure that more MLS teams advance to the quarterfinal round.

CONCACAF was not the only tournament to announce big changes last week.  The US Open Cup is moving forward with a significant alternation in the fabric of the event.  All MLS teams are entered now and the host team will no longer be determined by sealed bid.  A total of 64 teams will enter the event with all matches concluded in August.

Some Business Thoughts on the SuperDraft

The MLS SuperDraft was held on Thursday and broadcast live on ESPN2.  After two hours of televised coverage, the feed switched to ESPN3.com. Adrian Healey manned the desk while Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman handled much of the commentary heavy lifting and despite some hiccups, the broadcast was generally well done.  The ESPN talent was not afraid to touch on some of the big issues facing the league during the event and Twellman and Lalas were able to provide some insight into the top picks in the draft.  On the downside, interviews with player were in short supply and the network lacked good college footage of the players.  Whatever the value of a 30 second highlight package, fans enjoy seeing the future wearers of the colors in their college days. We continue to believe that televising the SuperDraft is exceptionally important for the league.  Commissioner Garber has long talked about creating special moments, and the memory of seeing top picks receiving their scarf and shaking Garber’s hand will burn into the brains of fans, journalists and youth players

Not surprisingly, Twitter was awash in draft talk and carried the burden for those not sitting at home in the middle of the day.  Commentary, trade talk and general observations drove the Superdraft up the “trending” list for the social media site.  The league and teams effectively used the medium to connect with fans and broadcast information about the draft, picks and more.

One big business item that we mentioned on Twitter was the disappointing lack of coverage on new league partner NBC Sports’ website.  Other than a brief AP story, there was no evidence of the MLS draft on the site.  The front page, which includes a wide array of sports news, was totally devoid of coverage.  This was a big opportunity for the network to make an impression with skeptical MLS fans and the fell short.

Advertisers included presenting sponsor adidas, Weight Watchers, Geico and local ads.

Covering the Coverage: Superdraft

As we do every so often, we thought we would take a look around the web to see how mainstream websites and publications are covering the annual SuperDraft.  We’ll start across in the pond in England, where  the Guardian continues its regular (and impressive) MLS coverage with a team-by-team look at the upcoming draft through the eyes of various team supporters. The piece is well researched and clearly required a substantial amount of effort to put together.   The comments after the entry are also instructive and worth a read.

Over at CNNSI.com, Avi Creditor has weighed in with a detailed piece looking at prospects and draft targets.  The article does a solid job listing some of the top talent from the college ranks.  Creditor also weighs in with an article looking at the various team needs across the league.  The effort from CNNSI should be contrasted with the absence of the usually excellent coverage on ESPN.com.   The draft is largely MIA on the Worldwide Leader’s website despite the upcoming broadcast on ESPN2.

Elsewhere, Canada’s TSN offers some thoughts on Montreal’s first Superdraft and adds some insight into Jess March’s thinking as the season gets closer. Staying North of the border, the Vancouver Sun’s soccer blog chimes in about the relevance of the Superdraft in MLS 2012.  Elsewhere in CONCACAF, the Jamaica Gleaner weighs in on the MLS prospects of local product Darren Mattock.  The day after the draft is typically replete with these types of articles from town newspapers covering the success of community residents.

Soccer Business Bits: Homegrown Players, Henry Returns & More

Over the last couple of years, MLS has made a long string of significant decisions aimed at advancing the league and improving the quality of soccer on the field.  These have included the Designated Player rule in all of its iterations, the Generation Adidas program and recently, the mandating of team specific academies tasked with developing young players and retaining young talent in the league.  For those interested in the inner workings how those academy products become Homegrown players within MLS, Kyle McCarthy of Goal.com offers a great look at league rules governing these signings and how various teams work within those rules to sign local talent. McCarthy looks at recent signings in Portland, Philly and elsewhere to demonstrate the challenge of combining multiple academy models to fit one domestic league.

Perhaps the big soccer story Monday on both sides of the pond was Thierry Henry’s remarkable reintroduction to Arsenal at the Emirates in the Third Round of the FA Cup.  Just minutes after entering the match in the second half, the Red Bull forward scored the only goal of the game to advance Arsenal to the next round against Aston Villa while further cementing his legend in England.  For MLS, Henry’s dramatic return provides another shot of positive publicity.  All stories describing his return mentioned the Red Bulls and the two month loan from Major League Soccer.  Whatever the pros and cons of these short term winter loans, the league has found another way to generate publicity in the off season.

Finally, at last Summer’s All Star Game, Commissioner Garber mentioned (in response to a question from a journalist), that PPL Park was a likely candidate to host the 2012 version of the event.  This article in the Inquirer suggest that PPL remains a likely candidate for the event, along with LiveStrong, Sapute and BC Place.