Attendance in New England: What’s Wrong with the Revs?

revsIt seemed like the perfect confluence of events: A beautiful night, a team on a winning streak, a Saturday night in September (the Revs traditionally pull big fall crowds) and a fireworks spectacular at the end of the game. However, instead of a big raucous crowd, less than 9,500 were in attendance as the Revs fell to Kansas City in a fairly exciting game. This was the second straight Revs game under 10k, and while the previous game fell victim to the remnants of Tropical Storm Daniel, these are disappointing numbers for a proud franchise.

The poorly attended match continued a downward trend for the Krafts’ soccer franchise. For the season, New England is averaging less than 12,000 The Revs averaged 14,300 in 2008 and 16,700 in 2007. While attendance has fallen, the team has been a consistently successful performer on the field. The Revs have been to multiple finals, won the SuperLiga, won the US Open Cup and have been a perennial playoff participant.

So what has gone wrong? Some fans believe that the early years of MLS (where the Revs were fairly well supported), were so dismal in New England, that fans stopped turning out. Others believe that the Revs neglected the “hard core” supporters in lieu of promoting family attendance and as a result, the young crowd stopped coming. Others believe that the cavernous atmosphere of Gillette stadium combine with turf fields and football lines have conspired to drive fans away.  Moreover, there has long been a feeling among Revs’ fans that the team is barely a blip on the Kraft family radar, and that there is an unwillingness to bring in players or spend on the team.  Over the last few years, the Revs have lost quality players like Dempsey, Noonan, Dorman and Parkhurst without finding ready replacements.

To the Revs’ credit, they are making an effort to bring “hard core” fans back to the stadium.  Check out our interview with Revs’ COO Brian Bilello for more on their efforts to attract fans.   But is it enough?   The Boston area seems to be a great place for a professional team.  Youth soccer is popular in the area, there are strong ethnic communities and a history of turning out for big soccer events.  A huge crowd turned out in 2002 for the Galaxy/Revs final in Foxboro in full throat for the Revs
(and were disappointed by the result).  That game occurred at a time when the region was desperate for a champion and ready to embrace the Revs and the sport of soccer. The Revs lost, and slowly, the fans stopped coming.

The Revs need to take steps to right the ship or risk further alienating their fans.  In our view, the team needs to take a hard look at using its DP in 2010 and bringing in a player or two with international recognition to ignite the soccer base in the Boston area.  With a healthy Twellman and Joseph,  the steady Matt Reis, an improving young defense and a big name “number 10”, the Revs can generate the press and excitement to re-energize their potential base.  Moving towards a stadium will also help; Gillette can really suck the life out of soccer game.

So what should the Revs do?  Will the construction of a stadium bring the fans?  Does the team need to sign a big player or two?  What can the Revs do to bring them back to Gillette?

Business Bits: Ticket Deals and Promotions

houstonWe recently wrote about the Galaxy’s drastic reduction in ticket prices for premium seats for upcoming home games (including the upcoming Chivas USA match).  Around the League, other teams are offering other deals to bring fans into the park.  In Chicago, the Fire are now offering five game plans for as little as $110 per seat (note to the Fire, it would be helpful if the link on your website to the ticket package actually worked).  In Houston, the Dynamo are packaging a Mexican appearance in the Gold Cup with five additional Dynamo games for a $90 ticket.

In Colorado, the Rapids will continue their annual “Play Clean Night” tradition for their April 25th home game.  In addition to providing special parking for hybrids and carpools, the Rapids will also offer cell phone recycling and reduced power operation around the stadium.  According to the Rapids’ website, the team will also “encourage” the recycling of Galaxy and Beckham jerseys that night.

In Houston, the Team is also sponsoring two “soccer night out” events.  The team will bring players, Dynamo Girls, promotional items and more to these events in the Houston area. The Revs and FC Dallas are actively promoting watch parties for away games.  Dallas is offering two locations and including food/drink specials.  The Revs are bringing the Revs’ Girls to their event, and will be distributing promotional items. revs

Business Bits: 2009 MLS Promotions

houstonThe Houston Dynamo have announced their 2009 promotional calendar.  Events include T-shirt and bobblehead giveaways, discount tickets and more.  Interestingly, every home date has a corresponding promotional event.  The Dynamo have been a well attended club since their move from San Jose.  Nevertheless, these promotional dates are an important indicator of Houston’s willingness to work at growing their fan base.

Contrast this with rivals FC Dallas, where the only referenced game promotion is an opening night fireworks display.  With 3rd Degree reporting that less than 5,000 tickets have been sold for the Dallas home opener, it might be time for the Dallas Front Office to reach across the state for some marketing guidance.  Dallas has struggled to fill Pizza Hut Park and the 3rd Degree story states that General Manager Ken Hitchcock was relieved of responsibility for ticket sales.

In Kansas City, the Wizards are offering an “all you can eat” ticket at Community America Ballpark.  According to the Sports Business Journal, the $35 ticket includes unlimited pasta, hot dogs, chips, soda and more.  Tickets in the inclusive section are $10 more than tickets in neighboring seats.

The Revs have continued their efforts to market their “Defend the Fort” initiative by creating a website dedicated to the campaign. The site includes a fairly unimpressive video compilation and promises of a supporter online community.  The Revs are certainly making the effort; the campaign has appeared on multiple online sites and has generated buzz. It will be interesting to see if it pays off with a more energized atmosphere at games. revs

Interview With Tim Martin of Gallagher Sports

mlsEarlier today, Footiebusiness.com posted about San Jose’s recent sponsorship deal with Amway. Tim Martin, a 10 year veteran of the sports marketing field and the President of soccer marketing entity Gallagher Sports, lauded the deal in a recent article for ESPN.com.  Mr. Martin has worked for a number of major brands in an array of sports marketing categories and has negotiated tens of millions of dollars of sponsorship agreements.  He was kind enough to answer a few questions posed by Footiebusiness.com:

Footiebusiness.com:  Despite the obvious positives of bringing money to San Jose,  some fans have wondered whether adding Amway to the League’s other two multi-level marketing jersey sponsors (Xango & Herbalife) either diminishes the standing of the League or creates an association that could be harmful. Do you think those are legitimate concerns?

 

Tim Martin: They are certainly legitimate concerns, because each of those MLM’s has had noteworthy and seemingly legitimate legal and/or scientific complaints registered against them in the past.  At the end of the day, however, it needs to be a decision weighed, and ultimately made, by the club, based off of its unique goals and objectives.  We are also in an unprecedented economic environment where almost no industry is immune to public scrutiny when it comes to where they are spending what may be perceived to be the public’s money.  Two years ago an observer may very well have listed major financial institutions and auto makers as two of the best and most stable of industries from which a club could secure a shirt sponsor.  That was before congressional hearings and TARP funding became staples of the evening news broadcasts and cast major sponsorship funding in an entirely new light.  At times like this, there is risk in just about any sponsorship.  If there were 15 multi-level marketing companies across the front of MLS jerseys, it may be indicative of a problem.  3 of out 15, however speaks to sponsor category diversity.


FB: The League has been working hard to market the game to a younger, “hard core” fan base for a while now.  Do you think Amway’s product line a good match for this type of crowd? Who are they trying to attract?

TM: I do not think that Amway’s products are necessarily a good fit for such a target, however, without having a working knowledge of Amway’s marketing strategies, its difficult to say exactly who they are targeting, particularly because they are so diverse.  The one thing that I believe is safe to assume is that they find the Quakes (and MLS) a global medium for broadcasting their brand, and must feel that the impressions they will receive around the world are worthy of the investment.


FB: There are now four clubs without jersey sponsors.  Do you think sponsorships deals are in the works for those clubs?  Fans are amazed that teams like the Revs, Rapids and Dallas (with the power and business acumen of  Kraft, Kroenke, etc..)  have not landed a sponsorship.  In your mind, what are those teams looking for, and what should they be looking for in a deal?

T.M. I’m fairly certain that any club without a jersey sponsor is actively pursuing one.  Its far too great of a potential financial resource not to be.  Each club, however, will assign a different value to the front of their shirt, and by value I don’t just mean a certain sum of money, but also cognizance of the brand they are associating themselves with.  This is very relatable to your first question in that it all comes down to the goals and objectives of the club.  It’s possible that these remaining clubs have had offers from multi level marketers, or casinos, or tobacco companies, and simply choose not to go into business with them due to an organizational belief system (I have no first-hand knowledge of any such offers, just using that as an example).


F.B. Some of the first deals have now been in place for a couple of seasons.  Do you think that the sponsors have realized the intended benefits from these deals?

T.M. Again, not knowing each sponsors specific goals and objectives for striking these deals in the first place it’s impossible to say for certain how they feel these deals are working for them.  I think that at least one success story would be Glidden and the Columbus Crew.  First and foremost, they bought the sponsorship at what would today be considered a great value price of $1M per year.  Little could they possibly have known at the time that a former Boca Juniors legend would guide the franchise to its first title while providing the brand with unprecedented exposure in South America, on top of what they also obviously received in the States.  It can also be reasonably assumed that Herbalife has received adequate value back on their $4M+ investment through worldwide Beckham jersey sales alone, and the exposure that they provide.

Once again, many thanks to Tim Martin of Gallagher Sports. To the readers of Footiebusiness.com, what do you think about Amway coming into the League, or about shirt sponsors in MLS?

crew-jersey

Business Bits: Bye Bye Barca

barcaMLS and FC Barcelona announced today that the storied Spanish Club is withdrawing its bid to enter the League in 2010.  Citing the economy and market conditions, the parties mutually agreed to walk away from the proposed Miami franchise.  We have previously posted about the viability of the South Florida market. With Barcelona out of the way, things are definitely looking up for Vancouver, St. Louis and Portland. According to this post at the 24th minute, Vancouver and Portland have wrapped up the slots for the next round of expansion.

In other news, tickets for the June World Cup Qualifier against Honduras have gone on sale.   The game is scheduled for Soldier Field, and interestingly, will be shown on ESPN Classic and Galavision.  ESPN seems to be playing games here.  There is no good reason this game isn’t on ESPN or ESPN2, other than using Classic as a pseudo pay per view.  Based on the ratings from the last qualifier, the Sports Leader is counting on a big increase in subscribers for Classic because of the game.

Finally, according to a story in the Daily Free Press, the Revs seem to be weathering the economic slowdown quite well.  The paper interviewed Liz Summers, the Revs’ director of communication:

“[Soccer] have not been affected as you may have seen others,” she said. “It’s an entirely different season ticket pack, discounted regardless of the economy. We’re a different entity because our value point, our price point, is at a much different level.”

Individual ticket prices range from about 15 to 20 dollars Summers said, and the Revolution also offers free parking, which helps keep them “a little bit of a different entity.”

“Season ticket sales are on par, if not ahead,” she said. “In ticket sales we’re doing very well. Soccer is still growing. There’s a line of cities trying to get into the door to get teams.”

Summers also said the Revolution has long-term deals for advertising and are increasing their advertising to online, adjusting to where the marketing deals are. That specific move has nothing to do with the economic issues, she said.revs