With all of the focus on the community response to the events in Boston, the efforts of Major League Soccer and its franchises should not go unnoticed. Whether its the charitable contributions of the Revolution and Bob Kraft or the in-stadium signage and demonstrations, soccer has been a big part of the show of support. Major League Soccer has long been an important partner in its community through individual team efforts and the league’s charitable arm, MLS Works. Below is a three year old interview we did with JoAnne Neale regarding Works.
The charitable efforts of professional sports leagues and teams are typically overlooked by their fans, yet they are an important component of the community outreach programs in which almost all leagues are involved. In addition to providing a way to give back to the community, local charitable efforts often provide teams with an outstanding opportunity to connect with fans and potential fans.
This week we will focus on the charitable efforts of the American Soccer Community. We have interviewed league representatives from MLS and WPS and individual teams to find out how soccer “gives back”. We start today with MLS Executive Vice President JoAnn Neale who overseas MLS W.O.R.K.S., the charitable arm of MLS. Thanks to Ms. Neale for her thoughts on MLS W.O.R.K.S., and check back during the week more stories about soccer and charity.
Footiebusiness.com: What is MLS W.O.R.K.S. What was the impetus for forming it in 2007?
JoAnn Neale: MLS W.O.R.K.S. is Major League Soccer’s community outreach initiative, dedicated to addressing important social issues affecting young people, and it serves as a platform for both League and club philanthropic programs. MLS W.O.R.K.S. seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport. MLS W.O.R.K.S. was launched in April 2007 as way for the League to partner with charitable organizations on a national level, but to also highlight and promote the charitable efforts of its clubs and players who give back to their local communities.
FB: MLS W.O.R.K.S. is involved with many different organizations. How is it decided where to allocate time and resources from WORKS to these organizations?
JN: MLS W.O.R.K.S. supports many organizations on various levels, but we try to partner with organizations that align with our objectives and make sense both nationally and in local markets with MLS clubs.
FB: Do MLS teams participate in W.O.R.K.S. or are there individual charities and outreach groups associated with individual teams? How is it determined which players participate in W.O.R.K.S. events?
JN: Although most of our clubs have their own charitable foundations and support local organizations, all 16 clubs support MLS W.O.R.K.S. and our initiatives. Because our markets vary so much, we create our programs with flexibility so they can be shaped to have relevance in each community. We work closely with our clubs to find player ambassadors that support our initiatives, but we also work to highlight all the charitable efforts of our players in each market, even if they are not W.O.R.K.S. specific.
FB: How can fans get involved? Are there any specific auction items fans should be on the lookout for?
JN: We recently launched the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Community Service Program, a collaborative effort to combine sport and service, promote goodwill within MLS markets and improve lives and communities at the grassroots level. Part of the program, which we will be expanding during the 2010 season, is to highlight what our fans are doing to make a difference in their communities. We will launch a contest during the 2010 season to recognize fans from each market that are going above and beyond.
Currently, we are conducting an online auction to help raise additional awareness and funds to support Unicef and their relief efforts for children and families in Haiti.
FB: W.O.R.K.S. advertising is present on signboards during games and on MLS broadcasts. How is it determined when/where W.O.R.K.S. programs are advertised.
JN: We will be increasing our marketing efforts during the 2010 season to try and give our initiative and charitable partners additional exposure during various times of the season. For instance, leading up to and surrounding Earth Day, we will promote MLS W.O.R.K.S. Greener Goals and during October, W.O.R.K.S. field boards will be pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness.
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