Still on the road…so here is the next part in our 2009 “Bringing the Fans” series. This post looks at the “soccer hater” and asks whether they are a desirable target audience for MLS. Did the World Cup change some minds? We should be back posting live Monday morning. The next part in this series should run tomorrow…internet access permitting. Here is the post in full:
“Soccer is a girl’s game” “There are no goals, it is boring” “It will never succeed” “Why do they roll around on the ground all the time”
All soccer fans have heard these statements. We all know people who feel this way about the “beautiful game”. This is part four of our MLS attendance series. You can see part I here, part II here and part III here. We have collected anecdotes from hundreds of friends, coworkers, fans, families, store owners and acquaintances in an effort to determine what will bring more fans to MLS. We have asked these questions at soccer matches of all levels, dinner parties, social gatherings and board meetings. We have been asking these questions since February with an eye towards seeking out trends about MLS fandom and what brings people to Major League Soccer League stadiums.
Should MLS attempt to bring “soccer haters” to the game? Are they worth converting? During our interviews, the sentiments set forth at the top of this page were repeated over and over. Most of the people who fit in this category would rather watch anything other than soccer. They are annoyed that ESPN even bothers to carry the games and cannot believe that the game gets “so much attention.” Most think it is a kids’ game or sport for girls. They decry the lack of content, lack of scoring and lack of commercials.
Yet, among the people we spoke with, there were a couple of passionate MLS supporters that say they started as soccer haters. All remember getting dragged to a soccer event and having a surprisingly good time. All of these converts are more dedicated to their local MLS side than many season ticket holders.
However, these folks are the significant minority. Most of these soccer haters detest the game and have no inclination to give it a chance. Overwhelmingly, these folks describe the NFL as their favorite sport. They typically like sports radio and turn it off if there is a soccer conversation. They told me they believe just about every negative soccer stereotype, and many related that they disliked the guys that played soccer in high school or college. They don’t want to be “won over” or sold the game.
So the question is, should MLS try? Is it worth devoting marketing dollars and efforts to convince these potential fans to come to MLS?
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