Kelly Weller is the Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Strategic Planning for FC Dallas. Ms. Weller has been with the team since December, 2008. Prior to joining FC Dallas, Ms. Weller had worked for the Dallas Morning News, where she was the Director of Marketing and Sales for Quick. Ms. Weller was kind enough to answer some questions about FC Dallas’ marketing efforts and sponsorship relationships. Back in 2011, we did a chat with FC Dallas’ Justin McCord touching on many of the same issues. You can find that chat here. Thanks to Ms. Weller.
Footiebusiness.com: What type of marketing efforts does the team make to attract soccer fans in the Dallas who follow the sport (in Europe, Latin America, etc…) but not the team?
Kelly Weller: This has been our target audience for the past three years. We are actively pursuing the soccer-connected fans in Dallas, who have not yet converted to MLS/FCD . It’s something we’ve been very strategic about, approaching them where they live, play, work and consume their soccer. In media, that has meant targeting soccer fans during televised soccer matches, through digital and social media, soccer websites, fan blogger sites, etc… Where we can’t go specifically to soccer, we at least target large sports audiences through things such as ESPN Radio and DallasNews.com/SportsDay coverage. The second aspect has been a large grass roots effort through pubs, adult soccer leagues, indoor/outdoor venues; adult soccer tournaments, college campuses and apartment complexes.
FB: Do you use billboards and newspapers or a more targeted approach? How has this approach changed over time?
KW: When we first started focusing on soccer-connected fans, we were able to gain a significant number of new fans because we hadn’t targeted that group or put any dedicated resources towards them yet. Now three years later, we’ve converted thousands, and feel we have our most engaged soccer fan base in the history of our club. We still want and need more of these fans, and we’re switching to more grass roots with less media focus, so we can penetrate that group at a deeper level.
FB: What are the biggest challenges to selling tickets in such a crowded sports landscape? Is FC Dallas in competition with other sports franchises for paying customers? What can the team do to distinguish themselves from other franchises in the Dallas area?
KW: We know from research that soccer fans are a unique audience with less overlap of attending other professional sports than most of the other major leagues in this country. There are enough soccer fans in Dallas for us to be successful regardless of the competitive sports landscape.
KW: We’re continuing to build on what we’ve done in 2011 and 2012, and that is to go out and promote to soccer fans, get them into the building for a game, and provide them the most authentic soccer experience possible while in the stadium. We’ve seen huge improvements in atmosphere and fan experience with things like our scarfing ceremony and the Budweiser Beer Garden on the north end zone field behind the goal. We’re continuing to help our supporters with additional resources like flags, drumline, banners, etc., and help where they would like it, recruiting more to come out, because they are the heart of the fan experience at our games.
FB: Last Summer the team hit a significant milestone with the signing of AdvoCare as team’s first longterm jersey sponsor? How did that deal come together? What are the team and AdvoCare doing to activate around their relationship in 2013?
KW: It was a great group effort. AdvoCare was an existing partner with FC Dallas so they were already familiar with the club and already saw the value in our relationship. The jersey deal was all about timing. It had to be right for their business and ours. We launched the jersey deal at our game versus the Galaxy last year in front of a sold out crowd on National TV and haven’t stopped since. We participate in their success school, and they participate in several initiatives of ours. Their distributor base has grown to 300,000 since the beginning of our partnership. Being that this is our first full season and that the jerseys are now on sale to the public, we’ll be doing quite a bit more.
FB: Finally, the naming rights deal with Pizza Hut ended last year. Do you anticipate new facility naming rights partner in the near term?
KW: Yes, it’s one of the top priorities for our enterprise to find a new partner for our stadium and complex. With more than 1.8 million visitors each year and more than 350 days of usage on the complex, the naming rights are a tremendous value for any partner.