Soccer Business Bits: Ticket Pre-Sale, Chivas Classico and More

mlsA couple of business notes leading into the weekend.  First, MLS is offering a “pre-sale” for MLS Cup 2009 tickets in Seattle.  The opportunity is available to VISA card holders and will be available for one week.  Tickets will go on sale to the general public on September 18, 2009. Tickets for the match range from $20-$45.

Elsewhere, Chivas USA is promoting its Chivas Classico when the Mexican version of the Goats will travel to Pasedana for a September 23 Wednesday evening match against its American counterpart.  The mid-season friendly will likely draw a big crowd, but seems like a surprising match to schedule in the middle of the MLS playoff race.  Nevertheless, the game will provide Chivas USA an opportunity to promote its brand in front of thousands of Southern California soccer fans.

Finally, DC United is offering a World Cup Qualifying 2-Pack that is offering tickets to a DC United game and the USA/Costa Rica World Cup qualifier.  Tickets for the two pack range from $53-$125 dollars.  US fans hope the qualifier won’t matter for the USA, but it likely will and promises to be an exciting match-up.

Soccer Business Bits: Revs New Partner, Weekend Marketing and More

revsLeague sponsor American Airlines has announced a three year sponsorship with the New England Revolution, New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium.  The deal includes stadium signage, commercials, community outreach and gameday events.  Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  The integrated marketing sponsorship will make American Airlines the official sponsor of both teams and the official airline of the Kraft sports properties.

While many fans will argue that the Revs are simply getting dragged into this deal on the coat tails of the Patriots, it is important for the Revs to utilize their relationship with the Pats for their own benefit.  If it means additional money or benefits for the Revs, all the better.  It will be interesting to monitor how frequently the cross promotions mention the Revs and not just the Pats.   American is a major company and a major MLS sponsor, and now they are the Revs official sponsor.

In other sponsorship/marketing news, Chivas USA is promoting a “kids night” where a child under 16 is free with the purchase of an adult ticket.  The promotion is good for the match this Saturday and two subsequent games during the season.  As we have discussed, Chivas is one team that has managed to weather the economic storm this season and increase attendance.  Click here for our interview with Chivas Director of Marketing Alex Gallegos.

Finally, the Fire are promoting their second home game of the week with a $10 ticket offer.    The tickets are good for the supporters sections and corner seats.  The Fire are also promoting a 20 ticket plan that allows fans to purchase 20 tickets that can be used at any home game or playoff game for the rest of the year.  The tickets are selling for $22 per ticket and the package did include 2 free tickets to the Galaxy game.  No sign what will happen now that the Galaxy have left the Windy City.

Bringing the Fans to MLS: Part II- Families

soccer_mom1They are the bane of many an MLS fan, yet they continue to represent a substantial portion of Americn soccer crowds.  Teams cater to them, by offering special four packs, pre-game soccer celebrations and mascots. Who are these fans?  They are familes.  Kids, soccer moms minivans and more.

This is part two of our MLS attendance series.  You can see part I here. We have collected anecdotes from hundreds of friends, coworkers, fans, familes, store owners and acquaintainces 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.

“Hard core” MLS fans have railed against the presence of familes for years.  Complaints against these fans include: “they are too quiet”  “they don’t care about the game”  “the don’t let me have fun” “they come once a year and don’t support the team” “they get up every 20 minutes” and “the stadium doesn’t let me do x because of familes.”

So we asked these families (moms and dads), what they wanted from the MLS experience.   Overwhelmingly, they want their kids to have fun.  These parents are looking for a night out, and the bounce houses, mascots and T-shirt tosses are part of that.  They are looking for affordability and fun.  Many are shocked about how “professional” the MLS experience is and that the matches are “big-time.”  They are “amused” by the supporters groups, but don’t want to sit with them. They are also very willing to purchase team gear for their kids.

But perhaps more interesting was the number of these parents who desperately wanted to both understand the game and have their children understand the game.  Like the non-soccer fans discussed earlier this week, many of these parents wanted someone to explain the nuance of a sport unfamiliar to many of them.  They wanted to know the back stories of the players and whom to cheer. For many, they wanted to comprehend the intricacies of a game their kids devote hours per week to playing and appreciate more than the distance of a goalie’s punts. They view MLS as a way to connect with their kids and enter their world, but need the information to get there.

Unlike many soccer fans, MLS is not competing with European soccer clubs for the attention of these families.  While most will not become season ticket holders right away, they will come back if they enjoy the experience and if the game means something to them.  The “quality” of the game is not that important, because the level of play is far higher than anything they have seen before. They think they can co-exist with the hard core supporters and actually appreciate the atmosphere and noise they bring.

So what do we think?  Are families an important part of the MLS fanbase?  Should the League turn away from efforts to bring familes to games in lieu of younger, more passionate fans?  Can these families become those passionate fans?  Let us know your thoughts.

The Morning After: MLS & WPS Business Recap

barcaAnother weekend is in the books, as both MLS and WPS continue their march to the playoffs.  However, perhaps the highlight was the Barcelona/Galaxy friendly that drew more than 93k to the Rose Bowl.  Another huge crowd and another sign of the popularity of soccer in the US.  Stay tuned the rest of this week for a series of posts addressing this issue.  We have spoken with folks across the spectrum of soccer fandom to find out what would either make them MLS fans or make MLS more popular.  We will post these reports over the next couple of days.

Elsewhere, it was a wild week on the field in MLS, but a fairly disappointing one at the gate.  Just over 12k were in Foxboro for the Revs/TFC draw.  14,500 were in Chicago for the Fire/RSL game and just over 10k made the trip to Dallas to see the Hoops destroy KC.  In Houston, just under 15k were in attendance while Colorado pulled less than 11k.  10k made the trip to San Jose. These are pretty bad numbers, however this may simply reflect the presence of four of the worst home draws hosting on the same weekend.

This weekend was notable for the second free preview of Direct Kick offered during the year.  The first was opening day, and the League is again promoting the service for the stretch drive.  This still remains one of best deals in televised sports.

In WPS action, 5k saw St. Louis and Boston play to a 1-0 score line in the Gateway City.   A very poor crowd of 2300 also saw the home team win as FC Gold Pride held off Washington on Saturday.   Midweek, 3100 saw Boston and Washington play in DC.  For a very frank interview with Tonya Antonucci about the business state of the League, please click here.

Soccer Business Bits: Mexico/US 3, Portland Expansion and Shirts in Seattle

us-soccerA recurring theme of this blog is the importance of soccer businesses interacting with soccer fans.  Whether it be MLS franchises, WPS, US Soccer or soccer media, we frequently advocate for open lines of communication between fans and those in charge.   Through the years, American soccer officials (from all leagues and teams)  have done an outstanding job of making themselves available to fans and “new media”.  Given soccer’s lack of presence in mainstream media (an improving situation), the web is the most important resource for soccer news and these same officials have historically been receptive to the internet soccer coverage and reporting.

Along these lines, we offer kudos to NBC Universal for reaching out to a number of soccer bloggers and websites to present their side of the debate over the televising of the Mexico/US match.  Specifically, Kevin Dugan of NBC Universal reached out with an offer to answer any questions about Mun2.  He also offered this brief promotional video and announced that the station will be available on Direct TV and Dish Network as part of a preview on August 12.  Longtime soccer broadcasters Phil Schoen and Marcello Balboa will handle the English broadcast (from a studio).

The situation is obviously not ideal, yet we certainly appreciate NBC Universal’s efforts to reach out and make the best of the situation.  Far more native English speakers will now have access to Mun2, yet are they the intended audience of Mun2?  From a business perspective, the decision to show the game on Mun2 (instead of a different NBC English language channel) should still be analyzed.  Mun2’s intended audience is the English speaking offspring of Spanish speaking parents.  Will the provision of this network to a larger population of native English speakers for the Mexico/US game really increase the audience for Mun2 over time?  We have put these questions to Mr. Dugan and eagerly await his response.

In Portland, the improvements to PGE Park were approved last week by the City Council.  We will address this story in depth going forward, but for now, please see our previous stories on expansion in Portland.

Finally, there is this nugget from the New York Times about MLS merchandise sales.  As part of a promotion putting MLS jerseys in Toys R US, MLS shed some light on merchandise sales in the League.  Seattle is number 1, followed by TFC and the Galaxy.  Not suprisingly, Designated Players are the most popular jerseys.sounders

Soccer Business Bits: MLS Bargains

rslThe MLS weekend starts off with a Friday night tilt at Rio Tinto.  RSL is promoting its Mangia service, which allows patrons to order food directly to their seats.  Mangia allows fans to order food by texting their order to Mangia.  The service has been piloted to a small section of Rio Tinto, but for the July 24 match against Dallas, the service will be available stadium wide.  Moreover, in an effort to promote the service, hot dogs will cost only a dollar and will deliver for free.  This seems like a fairly good idea for a sport like soccer that has no tv timeouts.  It will interesting to see if the service succeeds.

For their July 25th match against the Revs, the Dynamo are contributing $10 from each ticket to Nothing But Nets.  The well regarded charity purchases malaria nets for Africa families and children.  At the same time, the Dynamo are offering a Summer special for the game that includes 4 tickets for $55, 2 chicken sandwiches and 2 Happy Meals.  The promotion is offered in conjunction with McDonalds.

Finally, in conjunction with the Earthquakes’ Saturday night match against DC United, San Jose is promoting its Night of Champions pack.  On August 8, San Jose will play the first half of a doubleheader with Barca and Chivas playing the night cap.  The special offer is a ticket to the doubleheader and the July 25th match for as little as $45 per ticket.  Fans can also apply the deal to a number of other games.  The doubleheader will take place in San Francisco at Candlestick Park.

Soccer Business Bits: Deals, Deals and More Deals

crew-jerseyAs we do every few weeks, it is time again to take a look around MLS for ticket offers and bargains.  The Columbus Crew are offering the “July Mini Ball Pack“.   Starting at $19 per ticket, the package includes a mini-ball per ticket.  The package requires the purchase of 4 tickets and 4 balls.

Not surprisingly, the Red Bulls are promoting David Beckham’s trip to Giants Stadium this week.  The nationally televised game on FSC is being paired with the Gold Cup Final as part of a “Combo Pack“.   Sideline tickets are being combined for $80 with lesser seats for $55.   For the Beckham game alone, the Red Bulls are also offering the same tickets for $220 (for 4) and $180 (for 4).  These packages also include a $20 food and beverage credit.

Speaking of Mr. Beckham, the Galaxy are also pushing a “Beckham’s Back” effort for the AC Milan/Galaxy game next week.  After promoting the game through a number of different combo deals, the Galaxy are now selling the tickets on a stand alone basis. Standing room seats are selling for $50.

The Chicago Fire, are pimping an array of packages for the rest of the season.  These include a “4-4-4″ that includes four tickets, four drinks and four hot dogs for $79.  Other Fire offers include 3 game packs, 5 game packs and a 20 game flex pack.  Finally (and somewhat surprisingly), RSL is still offering discounts for the upcoming All Star Game.  These include $35 vouchers obtainable through local KFC locations.   The link for stand alone All Star tickets on the RSL website is currently down.rsl

MLS vs. US Soccer: Anecdotes of a Gold Cup

revsI made the trip up to Foxboro this weekend for the Gold Cup Tripleheader.  It was a night of perfect weather, a great US/Hati match and a stinker of an MLS game.  I made the trip with a buddy with whom I played soccer in college.  While I have immersed myself in MLS and US soccer over the past decade, he had been neither to an MLS game nor a US game.  He drove up from the City of Brotherly Love and is a big Philadelphia sports fan.  He has expressed some lukewarm interest in the Union, but wanted to “see the product” before he buys.

His experience was unfortunately instructive.  The US game was scintillating.  Fans of both teams were into the game, the soccer was back and forth and there was tension throughout.  The Revs/Wizards game was a different animal.  The soccer was of poor quality, the crowd quiet and the match lacked drama.  On the way back (sorry Grenada, we didn’t catch the third game), my buddy expressed how entertaining the US match was, while noting that he almost fell asleep during the Revs game.

In defense of MLS, both teams were missing many of their best players both to injury and the Gold Cup, and every League, all over the world, puts up stinkers. Yet a common issue on this blog is the big question facing MLS; how does the League bring the multitudes of American soccer fans into the fold?  Displays like Saturday night are not the answer.

The new franchises (TFC, Seattle, RSL) have managed to bridge this divide.  The Revs, Red Bulls, etc… have not.  Behind me at the game was a teenage youth player of an apparently high level.  He was at the game with a relative who knew little about soccer, yet this youth player regaled his relative with the biography and history of all of the US players.  This youth knew nothing about the MLS teams involved, knew none of the players and was dismissive of their skill. “Individually they are ok, but they can’t play in tight spaces.”  Of course the player that commented was directed at was two time Argentinian World Cup veteran Claudio Lopez.  This youth player had no idea that athletes of that caliber were plying their trade in MLS.

The League is making strides; we’ve documented those repeatedly.  Yet it was remarkable how many fans came to the triple header after the Revs game was over because they had zero interest in MLS.  I’m not describing anything new; we’ve certainly posted about this issue many times.  However, I thought the anecdotes were instructive.  My friend? He promised to give the Union a try, but has decided against season tickets.

July 4th in Major League Soccer

rapidsIndependence Day has long been a big event for Major League Soccer, with certain markets becoming part of the 4th of July scene in their respective cities.  We thought we would take a look at these events for 2009.

We start in Colorado, where the Rapids will host their 14th annual 4th of July game.  When the Rapids played in Mile High/Invesco Field, huge crowds made the annual pilgrimage for soccer and fireworks.  Now in Commerce City, the Rapids should still enjoy a larger than usual crowd. Pre-game festivities will include concerts, kids events and more.  Post-game, there will be fireworks and a concert performance from The Samples.  The game itself will feature the Rapids and the Fire.  The Rapids have long set the standard for 4th of July extravaganzas in MLS, and it seems the team is lining up another fun celebration.

RSL will host its annual Independence Day celebration a night early, on July 3.  The event includes a presenting sponsor (Les Olson Company) and a post-game fireworks show.  There will be a post-game concert by David Osmond and a pre-game Carnival Real which will include a popular local cover band.

Elsewhere, the Wizards are promoting Kansas City’s largest fireworks display as part of their home game against Houston on the 4th.  At the same time, the Galaxy are promoting a fireworks event for their match against New England.  As part of that effort, the Galaxy are offering their “Family Four Pack” which includes tickets, hot dogs, sodas and a parking pass. FC Dallas is also pushing a 4th of July Event in connection with the American Fallen Heros Project. Military personell get free admission to the event which includes post-game fireworks and a concert.

MLS typicaly gets a nice attendance bump from these games and 2009 should be no exception.  With Gold Cup doubleheaders around the corner, the return of the Golden one weeks away and friendlies coming soon thereafter, MLS may enjoy a surprisingly successful summer at the gate.

Soccer Business Bits: Deals, Deals, Deals

crew-jerseyAs we like to do on occasion, we are going to take a look around the League to see what teams are offering to help bring fans to the game.  In Columbus, the Crew are promoting a Gold Cup Two pack for a July 7 doubleheader and a select Crew Games.  Prices for the packages range from $33 -$40.  At the same time, the Crew are offering a “Crew and More Pack” that includes 4 tickets to a Crew game and 4 tickets to a local attraction including an amusement park, zoo or science center.  The tickets are going for as little as $22 per person.

The Los Angeles Galaxy are cross promoting their AC Milan friendly with the Sports Authority (interstingly a competitor to League sponsor Dick’s.  The promotion is essentially a give-away, with participants afforded the opportunity to win tickets, gear and other itmes simply by registering.  At the same time, the Galaxy are promoting $1 beer and $1 hot dog night for their game this weekend versus Houston.  The promotional prices are only available pre-game.

In Seattle, the Sounders outstanding website does a great job setting forth the various promotions run by the Team. These include arrangements with Microsoft, Jack in the Box and Great Clips and others.  At the same time the Revs are offering a 4 game “mini-plan” that includes a free T-shirt.  The T-shirt keeps the “Defend the Fort” theme front and center.

As the season goes on, we will continue to note some of these promotional efforts.  These quick glimpses provide interesting insights into the efforts teams are making to bring fans to the games.  For teams with their own parks, getting fans into the stadium is the best way to sell food, merchandise and their product.