The Chivas Conundrum

Perhaps the biggest business story of the weekend was the sub-8000 crowd at the Home Depot Center for Chivas’ home game on Saturday night.  Chivas isn’t the first team to suffer indignity at the gate in the last couple of years (New England and Columbus have certainly put up some attendance stinkers lately), but the Chivas experiment has certainly risen to the top of the list of trouble spots.  Having already reduced their maximum attendance figure almost 10k per game, the team undershot their new cap by more than 11k.  Chivas USA is already a second citizen in their own stadium and in the eyes of most of their fans and owner.  Is the team long for Los Angeles?  Is a move to San Diego in the future?  What about a rebrand?

What is remarkable about Chivas’ current situation is the progress the team was seemingly making over the last couple of years.  We’ve long commended their aggressive marketing department for finding creative ways to put fans in seats at the Home Depot Center.  Creative promotions, giveaways and outreach programs have been a hallmark of Chivas’ marketing.  Can it be saved in 2012?

For fun, below is an interview we did with Chivas’ Director of Marketing Alex Gallegos three years ago:

Footiebusiness.com: What is Chivas doing differently for marketing in 2009?  How has the economy changed/impacted those efforts?

Alex Gallegos: We have instituted a ton of different programs either marketing, community or sales based, they are as follows:

All You Can eat Section
Stimulus mini- 5 game plan

Practices in the Community

Partnerships with the City of Hope, Special Olympics and the American Lung Association

School of the game

Band of the game

Family and kids packs

All aimed at community involvement, affordable entertainment and fan development

FB: In 2009, many teams in MLS seem to be struggling at the gate.  Yet Chivas seems to be doing quite well, and to date, numbers appear to better than last year.  To what to you attribute that success?

AG: A stronger market presence, diversified advertising avenues

A sales dept that is more veteran and versed in the soccer sales ways

Leadership from our CEO Shawn Hunter

A great team that makes it easy to highlight what we do on the field and off

A stronger presence in the community

Great media and corporate partners

FB: How have Chivas utilized online avenues such as social networking sites, SUM’s new online ad network, etc… to market the team?  Do you find that these efforts increase interest in Chivas or impact attendance?

AG: We have had or launched myspace, facebook, txt message, viral video and online ad programs. We are analyzing twitter and launched mychivasusa.com all to give our fans a better place to congregate, tell more fans and spread our word for us. It is helping little by little.

FB: What unique challenges does Chivas face as one of two teams in Los Angeles?  Most teams just compete against teams in other sports, while Chivas must compete against the Galaxy in their own stadium.  How do you deal with the further segmenting of the potential MLS fan base?

AG: We simply identify what makes us Chivas and let the consumer make the choice, we’re not trying to make anyone chose a side,  we’re open to anyone that likes soccer, that likes entertainment or that wants a fun environment and experience for their family.  We touch on things like our game atmosphere, price affordability, access to our players, community programs, customer service etc…

FB: Is it inconsistent/challenging for teams to target “hard core” supporters, non-soccer sports fans and families?  How do you resolve those inconsistencies/challenges?

AG: We make a lot of invites, we have a lot of guests that we invite to our games on us.  We do this so that they can experience our games and make the decision to come back on their own, more often then not they love our games and really are receptive to coming back and telling their friends. Were building fans through multiple programs, one fan at a time.