The King of Beers: A Chat with Camilo Durana of Budweiser

Man of the MatchTrophy in Stands sideThe Confederations Cup is nearing an end with the Final set for this coming weekend. Budweiser has long been a prominent presence in American sports and American soccer.  That has also been true during the Confederations Cup.  Camilo Durana, Budweiser’s Global Director, Budweiser Sports and Entertainment was kind enough to share a few thoughts about the current Man of the Match Program and Budweiser’s promotional efforts around the world of soccer.  Prior to joining Budweiser, Mr. Durana worked for both MLS and Octagon.

Footiebusiness.com: Budweiser is running its Man of the Match Program for the Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup in 2013.  What efforts will be made during matches to make fans aware of the voting options?

Camilo Durana:  During every game, Budweiser is encouraging fans around the world to vote for their Man of the Match picks through social media. Our partner FIFA is also encouraging fans to vote through its social channels.  We are also communicating with fans in the tournament venues and during match broadcasts in select markets

FB: Is the Man of the Match Program being promoted only on domestic broadcasts or also internationally?

CD: Fans from around the world can vote for their pick for the Budweiser Man of the Match during each game and we encourage fans supporting every team to cast their votes on one of the several open voting platforms during each game – from budweisermanofthematch.com to Facebook and our new iOS and Android apps. We’re currently offering voting in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.

FB: Does Budweiser have plans to extend the Man of the Match Program to other soccer properties including MLS?

CD: In addition to the Budweiser Man of the Match award being presented at each game of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup™ and the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, fan voting also helps determine the Budweiser Man of the Match in the FA Cup, the oldest association football competition in the world.  We are currently focused on these tournaments, but we are always exploring other opportunities to enhance the fan experience through the Man of the Match program.

FB: Why are the Confederations Cup and World Cup attractive properties for Budweiser Sports and Entertainment?

CD: Football and sports in general are key global celebration moments and the FIFA World Cup™ and FIFA Confederations Cup™ offer a strong and relevant global platform from which we can connect with passionate football fans around the world. We’re looking forward to the opportunities presented as the tournaments bring the excitement of the beautiful game to new places around the world, and to enhance the fan experience in the more than 85 countries around the world where Budweiser is served.

FB: Finally, with the World Cup only a year away, what does Budweiser anticipate doing to activate around the tournament?

CD: As an official partner of the FIFA Confederations Cup™, Budweiser is taking this opportunity to connect with passionate football fans around the world during the tournament.  We’re proud to take this opportunity to unveil our new Man of the Match programming, including the enhanced voting platforms during this year’s tournament, and we’ll look forward to making the experience even better as the eyes of the world turn once again to Brazil during next year’s FIFA World Cup™.  Beyond continuing our Man of the Match program, we are finalizing additional plans for next year’s FIFA World Cup™ but we know that expanding our voting to even more fans for Man of the Match will be a critical component, given the passion fans have displayed for making their voices heard.

Advertisements

US Open Cup

soccer statsFour US Open Cup matches were the feature attraction on Wednesday night.  This is the Centennial version of the Open Cup Tournament.  Although the games have never gained traction with most of the sporting public, the Open Cup is a fantastic tournament and the availability of Twitter updates, web broadcasts and liver coverage on various websites has made the even more accessible than ever before.

The egalitarian nature of the event should make tourney a bigger proposition to American sports fans who love the underdog and the possibility of major upsets.  However, the league and Soccer Federation have never done a great job of promoting the games.    The tournament does generally generate coverage in non-MLS markets when a lower division club makes a run.  This coverage can increase knowledge of both the tournament and professional soccer outside the major cities.  Moreover, the tradition of some teams playing their games in alternative stadiums provides fans with an opportunity to watch high level soccer in a more intimate setting.

TV Coverage (both of  live matches and of the tournament) would increase the event’s exposure, but there is little motivation for one of the sports networks to commit any resources to any such coverage.

NBC Thoughts

nbcBack live after a brief vacation on the high seas (sort of) and I thought I would touch on some of the business issues involving NBC that have made headlines over the last few days.  The first involves NBC and the success of the recent Stanley Cup telecasts.  NBC has done an effective job of promoting its soccer properties during the hockey playoffs and the ability to MLS showcased on NBC is one of the biggest benefits of the league’s relationship with the Peacock.  Yet there is little question that the focus of the network’s marketing might has been the EPL and not Major League Soccer. NBC’s investment in the Premier League is far more significant than its MLS payments and the ratings for domestic soccer remain weak.  Whether NBC will leave MLS in the rear view mirror when the renewal comes up next year remains to be seen, but with the league looking for a long term television home the NBC promos bear intense scrutiny.

Keeping with NBC for a moment, the network has announced its new lead soccer voice. With the departure of Arlo White after less than two seasons (for purportedly greener overseas pastures with NBC), the Peacock has turned to John Strong to front its MLS broadcasts.  Strong has been the Timbers’ lead voice and will now join Kyle Martino and Russ Thaler as the lead team.  Martino will also provide analysis of EPL matches while Premier League voices Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe will now provided occasional analysis for Major League Soccer.  From the official press release: and Pierre Mossa, the Coordinating Producer of NBC Sports ““With the addition of John Strong to our team, we have the best American voice in soccer leading our MLS broadcasts.  By expanding the roles of Kyle, Robbie, and Robbie, our expert commentators will be able to share their knowledge across all of our soccer coverage.”

Finally, NBC had one of its better days, with approximately 150k for its recent Seattle/Vancouver match-up. The strong numbers continued last weekend with 133k catching the Colorado/Portland match.

Bringing the Fans: Video Games

On the road, so no Monday After today.  Instead, here is a favorite post from a long time back about the power of video games.

At about the same time I was wrapping up high school in the early 1990′s, SEGA was the premier video game system.  Arguably the most popular game of that period was the EA Sports  hockey.  Whether in high school, college or elsewhere, boys around the country were gathering in basements and dorm rooms for tournaments of NHL hockey.  Although most knew little about the sport, regular game play brought names like Pavel Bure, Mike Richter and Ray Borque to the forefront of sports culture in the United States.  Soon thereafter, the Rangers won the Stanley Cup and the popularity of hockey exploded.  Video games weren’t the only factor, but the NHL had achieved an enormous amount of brand recognition through video games and created life long fans of the sport because of that first connection.  Can MLS achieve a similar success?

This is part five of our MLS attendance series.  You can see part I here,  part II here, part III here and part IV 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.

This is the last part in our Bringing the Fans series from 2009.  We should be back on US shores tomorrow and posting live by Monday night.  When it first ran, this part of the series was the most widely read and commented on.  Since then (August 2009), FIFA soccer video games have continued to increase in popularity.  This post asks the question, can video games create MLS fans?

EA Sports recently unveiled the cover of the 2010 version of “FIFA“.  Alongside Chelsea star Frank Lampard are American  (and Chivas USA midfielder) Sacha Kljestan and Mexian (and Chicago Fire forward) Cuauhtémoc Blanco.  Soccer has long been one of the easier sports to translate into video games (along with hockey and football), and thus millions of American males will dutifully purchase the game regardless of whether they know anything about soccer.  And from our interviews, it is readily apparent; the less they know about soccer, the more likely they are to play with teams from Major League Soccer (many soccer fans migrate to the EPL). As a result, it is these fans that may embrace the teams and players from MLS.

From  our interviews and discussions, it appears that video games are having this effect. I’ve spoken with a number of folks (adults and teens) who started to become soccer fans because of their video game experiences.  They caught some of the Confederations Cup and recognized players from their game.  Many have since seen MLS matches and have kept an eye on their favorite team. Will it continue?  Can MLS keep these  fans?  Are video games a legitimate method for attracting fans?  Let us know your thoughts.

Footiebusiness Vault: Interview with David Burke

rapidsOn the Road tonight.  Here is an interview from early March with David Burke of the Colorado Rapids.

In 2012, the Colorado Rapids hired David Burke as the team’s Chief Revenue Officer. Prior to joining the Rapids, Mr. Burke was the President of the Houston Aeros of the AHL.  Prior to joining the Aeros, Burke was Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service for the Phoenix Coyotes and Jobing.com Arena from 2009 to 2011. He also served as Director of Season Ticket Sales for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats from 2007-2009. Today, Mr. Burke was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions about the Rapids’ marketing efforts, promotions and more. Thanks to Mr. Burke.

Footiebusiness.com: How are the Rapids utilizing social media? Some teams are aggressively relying on Twitter, posting frequent training camp updates, linking to blog posts about the team and providing teasers about signings and ticket promotions, while others have been slower to adopt the technology. You are currently on Twitter as are members of the team’s front office. How do you anticipate the team using Twitter and Facebook going forward? Does the team have a policy on players using Twitter?

David Burke: We are moving to a more interactive responsive strategy and providing unique content to our followers both on Facebook and Twitter, and to that end have a growing communications team that is now more focused on the digital area than ever before. We’ve recently hired a Digital Marketing Manager who is tasked with growing our online presence and being more engaged with our fans in a variety of social media platforms, joining a staff that is working toward having more unique content in many different online areas. We understand that MLS’ strongest and fastest-growing demographic is 18-35, and they use social media to get their news and entertainment.

As for our players using Twitter, our Marketing Communications group encourages their participation and interaction on social media, while keeping an eye out to help them avoid difficult situations. The lines of communication are open between our players and staff, so if they have reservations about what to post, they are pretty responsible about checking first. With that said, our players that use Twitter are great at it, responding to fans’ questions and sharing unique perspectives on the team.
FB: What are the biggest challenges to selling tickets in such a crowded sports landscape? Are the Rapids in competition with other sports franchises for paying customers? What can the team do to distinguish themselves from other franchises in the Denver area?

DB: Denver has been shown to be one of the most saturated sports markets in the country, if not the very busiest, so we have to be creative in order to gain a share of people’s attention. The biggest challenge we have is getting people to their first match, because once they come to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and watch our team, they’re hooked.

The Rapids’ supporters group, Centennial 38, provides a unique element which no other sport in the area can provide, and the atmosphere at a Rapids game can appeal to everyone from families to young professionals. Our style of play and young squad is exciting and entertaining, and draws in both casual and passionate soccer fans. We are proud of the entertainment value and excellent customer service at the stadium, but we also feel that our fans, players, and the sport itself all do an excellent job marketing the Rapids experience to those in the stadium.dsg

FB: In a recent interview with the Sports Business Journal, Tim Hinchey indicated that the Rapids have 4,000 season ticket holders in 2013, more than double the number from two years ago. What are the Rapids doing to further increase those numbers? Does the team have a specific target for season ticket numbers in coming years? Are there special benefits that season ticket holders receive?

DB: Our first task is identifying, recruiting and keeping top-level salespeople on our staff, which is an ongoing process. Second, we work to train our sales staff, developing their skills and making sure they’re not simply telemarketers, but rather sales executives that meet with clients face-to-face and develop a relationship. From there, our staff can provide a product that best fits the client’s needs. Third, we motivate sales executives to work hard and remain with the club, because we know that continuity can help a great amount in bringing in new customers and retaining existing ones. Finally, we must provide strong leadership that will mentor these executives. With that plan in place, our goal next season is to continue this great recent growth and surpass 5,000 full season ticket holders. Some of the benefits of being a season ticket holder can be found here:
http://www.coloradorapids.com/tickets/sth-hq/%252Ffull-season-ticket-holder-benefits

FB: The Rapids introduced multiple new jerseys for the 2013 season. These include a unique primary jersey that incorporates the names of season ticket holders directly into the fabric. Yet noticeably absent from the shirt is a jersey sponsor. Why has the team had such struggles in securing a jersey sponsor? Is the team still looking to secure a jersey sponsor this year?

DB: This is something that our President, Tim Hinchey, continues working on every day. The club has been working very hard to secure the right jersey sponsor, which is not an easy task these days when you look at the investment levels. The average MLS shirt deal is worth over $2.5M per year, with most being three-year agreements – this is not a small ask by any means when calling on local, regional or national brands. In the last two years, the Rapids have made over 15 presentations, and while we’ve converted two of these prospects into local major sponsorships for the club, they just have not been for the shirt. In a market where the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL deliver multiple seven-figure deals, we need to work that much harder to find our “share of voice and share of wallet.” While difficult, this will happen and we hope all of our hard work will be rewarded with the right partner soon.

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

DB: The most notable and visible change in 2013 is the emphasis on our relationship with the state of Colorado. In addition to our new alternate uniforms, which feature the distinctive blue, red and yellow of the Colorado flag, our 2013 marketing campaign is centered on the pride people have in this state. The taglines “State of Mind” and “Colorado For Life” can be seen on billboards and advertisements in the area, and the Colorado flag can be seen on all our uniforms, on our field before the game, and in virtually everything we do. As the only MLS team that uses its state in the club’s name, we’re proud to be Coloradans and want to reflect our fans’ passion for the Centennial State.

Fans will also notice a new area of the stadium called “The Corner 7-Eleven,” which is the result of a partnership we’ve made with 7-Eleven in conjunction with Coca-Cola. “The Corner 7-Eleven” will be in Sections 112 and 113 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which seats approximately 880, and fans can purchase $15 vouchers – which will be the lowest-priced ticket in the stadium – for the special area at any of more than 300 7-Eleven retail locations in Colorado. We’re excited about the partnership as it allows us to work with two great brands to bring the Rapids to a great number of people in retail locations throughout the state.

MLS Generates Content

mlsOn Tuesday Major League Soccer announced the debut of MLS+ According to the official press release, MLS+ is described as “a new content and distribution group that brings together top storytellers, producers and digital media partners to create a broad range of soccer programming on multiple platforms. By telling the stories behind the game, MLS+ will establish deeper connections between fans, players and Clubs and fuel the League’s rapid growth.”

Many of the major sports leagues find ways to control and produce content through their branded networks (e.g. NFL Network, MLB Network, etc…). MLS has no such outlet, so working through its television partners and the internet to provide original content and programming is the league’s best option to put specific and targeted programming before its intended audience.  Shows like MLS 36 have been outstanding for the league and its fans can only benefit from increased programming and content.

Once again, courtesy of the official press release: “Content created by MLS+ will include new television shows, digital series, mini-documentaries, mobile applications, lifestyle features, user-generated content, viral video stunts and more.  MLS+ will engage with fans, wherever fans consume content: on-air, online, mobile, social, in local MLS markets.  Distribution partnerships include NBC Sports Network and NBCSports.com, TSN and RDS, KickTV, the MLS YouTube channel, MLSsoccer.com and a wide range of other digital partners including Yahoo!, MedioTiempo, and SB Nation.”

Soccer Stadium Update

san-joseOver the years we have aggressively tracked stadium construction efforts around the world of American soccer.  We have watched stadiums grow in Harrison, Chester and elsewhere.  While the pace of stadium construction has slowed over the last few years, the San Jose Earthquakes are continuing to move towards their own digs.  San Jose city officials  approved the  Planned Development permit for the construction of the proposed Earthquakes stadium a number of months ago. A rendering of the proposed stadium is here and the team is keeping a stadium blog here.  For a look at ticket prices, click here.

According to the Mercury News, “[t]he $60 million privately funded facility is scheduled to open next spring, although prep work has been challenging on land that once was a factory for M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. Crews have spent the past few months digging out huge, reinforced-concrete footings and underground vaults — including Cold War-era bomb shelters.

“I know hard-core fans want this done yesterday because it’s been such a tortured process getting a stadium approved, but the No. 1 thing is to build it right,” Kaval said during a site tour. “Demolition has taken longer than expected because we didn’t know a lot of stuff was buried here.”

Last Fall, the Mercury News, “the Quakes announced that club seats for the stadium are sold out. With luxury suites and club seats sold out, general seating will go on sale on Tuesday, Oct. 23.”  The club took the strange step of putting these seats on the market before the stadium plans were even finalized.  This step seems to have paid off.  According to the article, the team already has a contingency plan in place in case they sell enough tickets to warrant expansion of the stadium to 24,000 seats.