Monday After

breakersBusy week in Major League Soccer with a host of mid-week games and a packed weekend, so we will jump right into attendance.  The early games started in with DC United, with less than 11k at RFK to watch DC fall 4-0 in another disappointing outing for the Black and Red. The Red Bulls fell just short of 12k in their mid-week effort, while KC managed its usual 18,500 plus.   The typical poorly attended Revs’ mid-week game streak continued, with barely 8k at Gillette for the team’s late loss to RSL.  The night finished with Dallas barely crossing the 10k mark for their mid-week match and just over 10k in San Jose .  None of these numbers did wonders for the league’s average attendance in 2013.

Not surprisingly, the numbers were better on Saturday night, but still not oustanding.  Chicago crossed over the 12k mark, yet attendance remains poor in Bridgeview this season.  Later on Saturday, the crowd for the Montreal Impact was similarly disappointing, with less than 15k in attendance at Stade Saputo.  As usual, the crowd in Seattle raised the attendance figures with more than 38k at Century Link for the Sounders’ second consecutive win.   The Northwest continued its strong attendance push with 21k at BC Place. With the Canucks season finished, the Whitecaps are now the only game in town.

The big attendance surprise came courtesy of the Revs, who managed 16+ for their Saturday night tie with the Red Bulls.  Whatever the reason, this is the second consecutive solid weekend crowd at Gillette.  The Crew managed less than 12k for their weekend tilt at Crew Stadium.  FC Dallas managed more than 14k for their second match of the week at home.  The Pacific NW raised the average on Sunday, with more than 20k at Jeld-Wen for the home team’s 3-0 drubbing of Chivas USA.

In NWSL action, the Western New York Flash, played before 2700 at Sahlen Stadium.  In New Jersey, Sky Blue drew less than 1500 for their home match, while more than 4k were in Maryland for a DC/Boston match.

Soccer Business Bits: Continental Tire Goes Further & Galaxy Promotions

galaxySince 2010, fans of Major League Soccer have become very accustomed to advertisements for Continental Tire during telecasts of MLS matches on national networks.  There have been multiple reports that the North Carolina based company has re-signed a multi-year deal with MLS to remain as the league’s official sponsor in the tire category.  As part of the deal, Continental has also inked a multi-year deal with US Soccer.  Per SBJ, “Germany-based Continental Tire becomes one of seven companies with deals to sponsor both the USSF and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The others are Anheuser-Busch, Visa, McDonald’s, Castrol, Yingli Solar, and Johnson & Johnson. Continental Tire has been a FIFA sponsor for the last two decades.”  SBJ also provides a quote from Travis Roffler of Continental Tire “We wanted to lock up soccer in the U.S. for an extended period of time.  It’s the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., and our expectations for the World Cup in Brazil next year are very high.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Galaxy are cross promoting, with the Dodgers hosting a Galaxy night at Dodger Stadium and a Dodger night at the Home Depot Center.  LA Galaxy Night at Dodger Stadium is tomorrow. “The Dodgers are offering LA Galaxy fans a ticket package starting at $27 that includes a ticket in the All-You-Can-Eat-Pavilion and access to a pre-game autograph session from 5:40 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. in the right field pavilion with LA Galaxy players scheduled to attend: Colin Clark, Greg Cochrane, Todd Dunivant, Sean Franklin, Rafael Garcia, Bryan Gaul, Chandler Hoffman, Hector Jimenez, Kofi Opare, Brian Rowe, Charlie Rugg, Oscar Sorto, Kenny Walker and Gyasi Zardes as well as Associate Head Coach Dave Sarachan.Fans that purchase tickets by visiting will be able to get autographs from these players and pose for photos with the 2011 and 2012 MLS Cup Trophies. LA Galaxy players will participate in pregame jersey exchange and the ceremonial first pitch. Galaxy fans can enjoy Dodger favorite concession items including unlimited Dodger dogs, nachos, popcorn, peanuts and Coca-Cola products all included in the price of their ticket.”  These types of cross promotions are immensely valuable, as they put the Galaxy name before a new sports audience.

Marketing in Dallas: Interview with Kelly Weller

advocareKelly 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. 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 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.

fc dallas
FB: With the season just underway, are there any other marketing/branding efforts (either inside or outside the stadium) that Dallas fans should be on the lookout for in 2013?

 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: When I chatted with former FC Dallas Director of Marketing, Justin McCord back in 2011, season ticket sales were up 300% and the team had tripled its house sales staff. Have those numbers continued to climb?  How many season ticket holders does the team now have?  What is the team doing to continue to increase that number?KW: Yes,  our season ticket holders are continuing to grow, we continue to renew existing ones at a very high level, our average attendance also continues to rise every season.   It is the number one focus of our sales team.   

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.

Monday After

alex morganThe USWNT will play two home games in the Spring/Summer on the East Coast.  Red Bull Arena and Gillette were announced as the venues.  There was a some dispute about the selection of a turf venue for the matches, but for the first time in a while, Foxboro will play host a US International.

On to attendance, where the week started with a Wednesday night match featuring New England and Portland.  The match was yet another sellout for the Timbers who continue to pack Jeld-Wen Field with fans and atmosphere.  On Saturday, Star Wars night drew more than 18k at PPL Park in Philadelphia for a match that was entertaining and full of goals.   Columbus drew a national television audience on NBCSN, a marquee opponent in the New York Red Bulls, but only 12k fans came to Crew Stadium on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in May.

San Jose came up just short of a sellout with just over 10k in attendance.  While the crowd was just short of capacity, the team doesn’t have many seats to sell and any crowd short of a full house a disappointment.  The   low numbers continued with less than 13k at DSG for the Rapids’ victory over visiting Toronto.  Even RSL continues to struggle at the gate with less than 18k at Rio Tinto on Saturday night.  On Sunday, just short of 19k were at Sporting Park to see the home team beat Chivas USA 4-0.

In the NWSL, more than 2,500 fans came to Starfire to watch the Seattle Reign fall to Kansas City.  Portland won for the third straight time, with more than 5,000 fans in Maryland to see the Alex Morgan led Thorns continue their hot start.  In Sommerville, MA, the Breakers defeated Chicago before more than 3,000 fans who got to see the league’s first hat trick during the 4-1 win.  Finally, Sahlen Stadium in Western New York saw just under 3k for the Flash’s victory of Sky Blue.

Covering the Coverage

tv soccerEvery so often we like to take a look at how mainstream news and sports publications are covering the world of soccer in the United States.  As MLS moves into its third month of games, the EPL is wrapping up and Champions League closing for the year, we thought now would be the perfect time to take a look.

We’ll start with ESPN FC, which provides a great look at the efforts of America’s professional soccer referees to unionize.  Jeff Carlisle’s piece provides an outstanding in depth look at a topic that generates little attention. The centerpieces of the article are the interviews with officers of the Professional Referee Organization and Professional Soccer Referees Association.  Perhaps the most interesting business quote discusses the finances   But as in most unions, it’s not about what the members of at the top end of the scale are getting, but those closer to the bottom. Both Taylor and Walton confirmed that while the center referees are the ones with contracts, the assistant referees and fourth officials are paid on a game-by-game basis. Walton stated that this approach is how it’s done in every other league in the world. But Taylor admitted that getting the assistant referees at least on part-time contracts is something the PSRA will work towards.”

The Portland Timbers’ outstanding effort in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish foundation drew coverage from across the media spectrum, including SportsCenter, mainstream newspapers and more.  Sites as varied as CNNSi, Oregon Live, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Huffington Post provided coverage of the event.  This is a great story and one that has properly been celebrated across main stream and sports media.

Finally, even the Hollywood Reporter felt compelled to report on the outstanding ratings generated by the Champion’s League’s semi-finals.

Soccer Business Bits: Playoff Marketing, Timbers’ Great Works

Timbers BillboardThe Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway on the family of NBC sports networks, including the mothership, NBCSN and CNBC.  The playoffs draw huge numbers for the network and provide an important opportunity for MLS to get put its product before a host of new fans.  NBC continues to do an excellent job promotion MLS during its hockey broadcasts and the quality of their ads could be an effective draw for its soccer product.  It is no secret the second year ratings on NBCSN have not lived up to expectations, and without the Olympics, the NHL playoffs are the best sports draw on NBC until the NFL returns in the Summer.

The Portland Timbers made headlines for all of the right reasons on Wednesday.  Atticus Lane-Dupre is an eight year old living in the Portland area.   Atticus was recently diagnosed with cancer, and through the Make-A-Wish Foundation he expressed the desire to play against the Portland Timbers.  The team pulled out all the stops, hosting Atticus and his team for a match at Jeld-Wen Field on Wednesday afternoon.  The game was remarkably well attended and provided a wonderful memory for the Timbers and their young fans.  This is a great example of the good works a sports franchise can do in the community and the Timbers are to be commended.

The seemingly endless DC United hunt for a stadium continues with reports that the Developer Akridge might work with the district on a land swap to provide land for a stadium in the Buzzards Point area of DC.   According to the DC Biz Journal, “One potential scenario goes like this: Akridge gives up its 9 acres on Buzzard Point in return for one or two high-profile D.C.-owned buildings, perhaps Daly and/or even the Reeves Center at 2000 14th St. NW, and agrees to build a consolidated public safety campus on city-owned land somewhere in the District.”  DC fans are desperate for a new home and any option that provides a home will be welcome by United fans.