Soccer Business Bits: Back to B-More, RSL Friendly and More

unitedWe are back on our regular schedule now and thought we would start with a quick look to one of the big business stories of the week.  After getting rebuffed by PG County and desperate to leave RFK, DC United is still considering a permanent move to Baltimore.  According to the story from the Washington Business Journal, Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon has written to the Maryland Stadium Authority asking them to research a possible stadium project for United.  According to the story, the inquiry was made without consultation with DC United.

This is not the first time United has explored a stadium in Maryland.  Those prior efforts died After an 8-0 vote by the Prince George’s City Council refusing to support funding for a study of a potential stadium in Maryland.  United was then in the unenviable position of having thumbed its nose at the District of Columbia while being left at the alter (or perhaps engagement party) by the State of Maryland.  Now United may have another opportunity to build in the State.

There are many benefits to MLS teams playing mid-season friendlies: exposure, revenue and more.  That said, RSL’s decision to play Chivas in mid-October seems a bit contrary to their efforts to make the playoffs for the second consecutive  season.   With RSL needing points, it seems someone counter productive to exhaust their players with three games left to play.  Nevertheless, with a lenghty break between games, RSL probably needs the matches to stay fit for the run to the playoffs.  However, it is interesting that this match will likely draw about the same amount of fans as a typical MLS match at Rio Tinto.

Finally, the Globe & Mail is reporting that Vancouver will go forward with plans to build a retractable roof on BC Place.  The open air stadium is a requirement of the MLS franchise and moving forward should continue to make the transition for the Whitecaps smooth in 2011.

Advertisements

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: RSL Revenue, Attendance Review and More

rslWe neglected to comment on a story from last weekend about RSL’s Rio Tinto attendance and its impact on revnue.  According to this story from the SL Trib, attendance in Salt Lake City is down this year, but revenue is way up.  Despite the lowest attendance in Team history, revenues are up more than 25%, a clear indicator of the importance of controlling your own stadium.  While the weather has been miserable in RSL this year, the Team is still bringing in the money thanks to controlled revenue streams and the absence of rent payments.

Just as interesting, was the discussion of the dreaded free ticket.  According to the article, RSL is giving away about 1k seats this year as compared to 3-5k in past seasons.  The great debate about the value of handing out free seats.  Does it create interest?  Does it devalue the seats so that people expect free seats and won’t pay for the privilege of coming to the stadium?  The Team seems to believe it is in a good place, but only summer attendance will tell.  The last two games (including the tie on Saturday) were sell-outs, so for now things seem to be moving in the right direction (special thanks to a certain American Idol runner-up)

For the rest of the League, attendance was something of a mixed bag.  Toronto brought the usual sell-out.  For all of the numbers, check here.  It was a strange slate of games for MLS this week, with a Thursday, Friday and two Sunday games.  True to form, these games were not well attended with only Chicago breaking the 13k barrier.  Most distressing was Dallas, were less than 6k announced were in attendance at Pizza Hut Park.  We have addressed the Dallas problems repeatedly, so we won’t do it again today.  Suffice to say, things are getting bad fast.

Soccer Business Bits: The Morning After

mlsIn a week without an ESPN game, MLS was busy with 14 teams in action in six cities.  On the attendance front, the League seemed to have a pretty good week with the notable exception of 8,200 in Dallas.  Most interesting was the virtual attendance tie between Chivas and the Galaxy in dueling games at the Home Depot Center.  On Saturday night, Chivas got more than 16k in hosting DC United in a 2-2 tie.  The Galaxy got virtually the same number for a Sunday afternoon tilt with Columbus.  Chivas has continued its strong attendance start, with each game seemingly building on the success of the week before. The Galaxy are way down, but the return of Becks is just weeks away.

Elsewhere, NY showed a comparatively big number by bringing about 14,500 to Giants Stadium. For a team that has struggled to top 10k on some nights, 14,500 is a good showing.  As we have discussed before, Red Bull Arena is opening up next year and there is a sense that the team is holding its advertising dollars for next season.  That is not the case in Utah, where RSL brought more than 19k to Rio Tinto.  We have highlighted RSL advertising efforts in the past, and those efforts appear to be paying dividends.

Switching focus to WPS, the Womens’ League was in action in three cities this weekend.  FSC broadcast the Sunday night game from Boston and the other two matches were available on local television.  Just over 6k attended the Sol’s Friday night game at the Home Depot Center as part of its three games in three nights this weekend.  In Boston, 4200 watched the Breakers on Sunday and just under 5k were in Chicago on Saturday.  WPS continues to hit its attendance targets, settling nicely into the 4-6 range.  As the year progresses, it will be interesting to see if the WPS pulls ticket sales from MLS.  The Revs are struggling around 10-13k while the Breakers are pulling 5k on the same weekend.  Would some of those fans be at Gillette if the Breakers weren’t in Boston?

Finally, the 2009 SuperLiga has been announced with play starting in June.  We will discuss the SuperLiga in detail as it comes closer.  This event wobbled a bit last year, after a successful first campaign. This year, some of the big Mexican teams like Chivas and America are not participating.  That should have a dramatic impact on attendance at TV ratings. Nevertheless, the soccer has been pretty good during the tournament and the atmospheres have been pretty lively.  For now, take a look at our write-up on last year’s SuperLiga.

Interview with Davy Ratchford, RSL’s Director of Marketing

 

rsl

Over the last few weeks we have posted a number of interviews with MLS Team executives regarding efforts to market their Clubs in the current economic and technological climate.  Each team has unique circumstances that make their marketing and fan outreach efforts fascinating fodder for discussion and analysis. This week we touch base with Davy Ratchford, RSL’s Director of Marketing.  RSL is in their first full season at Rio Tinto Stadium and brought huge crowds to their playoff games at Rio Tinto last year.

Thanks to Mr. Ratchford.  Check out our other recent marketing interviews with Revolution COO Brian Bilello, Kansas City VP of Marketing and Communications Rob Thomson and  Dynamo Senior Vice President Rocky Harris

Footiebusiness.com: What is RSL doing differently for marketing in 2009?  How has the economy changed/impacted those efforts?

 

Davy Ratchford: Everyone is operating on tighter budgets.  We’ve focused our marketing efforts around a segmented marketplace.  Our mass media is focused on research driven statistics telling us what stations our prospects watch and listen.  Although we are doing well, it is easy to see the economy’s effect when it comes to discretionary entertainment spending.


FB: RSL opened Rio Tinto Stadium last year.  How does the presence of the new stadium change/impact marketing efforts?  Is the stadium experience a
marketing tool?

 

DR: Absolutely, when we opened the stadium at the end of the 2008 season, we had fantastic attendance which helped us both on the field and off. The experience that people had was captured and bottled into our 2009 pre-season marketing “where you there” campaign.  We tried to remind people of what those few games’ magical moments were like.

Having a home to call our own brings a level of optimism in our marketing.  But at the same time, we don’t want it to be just about the building.  Our players and fans are the soul of our organization and the building helps us showcase that.


FB: How has RSL utilized online avenues such as social networking sites, SUM’s new online ad network, etc… to market the team?  Do you find that
these efforts increase interest in RSL or impact attendance?

 

DR: We actually do quite a few online promotions.  We have a steady following on Facebook and our sales pods keep their clients informed via twitter.  These avenues are the right price “free” and allow us to communicate to our fans in their comfort zone.  We do a lot of online banner ads and have tracked some fantastic click through numbers.


FB: Unlike other MLS franchises, RSL plays in a city without competition from multiple “big four” sports franchises.  How does that impact RSL’s
media exposure and ability to generate interest through “free” exposure?

 

DR: The Jazz have been a great anchor for professional sports here in Utah for some time.  As have the college sports teams at BYU and The University of Utah.  Real Salt Lake is rebounding from some years of losing seasons and the media has started to embrace a 2nd professional sports team.  We’ve negotiated some larger broadcast deals that allow us more coverage on local networks.


FB: Is it inconsistent/challenging for teams to target “hard core” supporters, non-soccer sports fans and families?  How do you resolve those
inconsistencies/challenges?

 

DR: I think it does become a challenge, but a good one to have. In our marketplace we have a certain market segment that is young, male and single.  We also have married with 3 kids and we also have grandparents and grandkids.  Having a broad marketplace does cause us to stretch our budgets across the spectrum to reach these differnt targets.  The key is creating a good media mix that is atrractive to all of these groups.  And to have a strategy in place to move them along in their commitment level towards us.  We are happy to have folks come to one or two games a year, but our goal is for them to experience us and increase their connection to us.

The Business of Real Salt Lake

rslThe week of RSL’s big home opener at Rio Tinto stadium has brought a number of stories about how RSL is functioning as a business in its new digs.  From “Behind the Shield, RSL’s official blog, comes word of “ticket insurance” in case of precipation at the home opener.  Unlike traditional rain check policies (where a game is rained out), the RSL policy allows fans the option of coming back for a game in August even if the game goes forward.  If there is any rain or snow between 6-10 p.m. the night of the game, all scanned tickets get a second game.  This is a clever policy, but suggests that RSL is concerned about attendance for opening night.  Check below for the opening night attendance.

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting on the RSL’s elite “100 Lions Club“.  For a base fee of $15,000, admission to the Club provides VIP seating, food service, V.I.P. parking and more.  The program also includes additional up close  meetings with players, concierge service and first rights to non-soccer events at Rio Tinto.  These are the types of programs that teams in all major sports rely upon as  an important revenue source.  These are also the types of programs that are struggling in this economy.   It will be interesting to see if RSL can keep selling these seats and selling them out.

We recently wrote about RSL announcement of Jet Blue as an official sponsor.  The deal includes signage, promotions and special offers for RSL fans.  According to this article, RSL has also signed on with Burger King, Anheiser-Busch and more.  Rio Tinto stadium is a big draw for these advertisers, because the signage and stadium advertising includes events other than soccer.  The article also announces a new TV deal for the team.

During the broadcast, Crown Royal, Heineken, Pennzoil and McDonalds were among the national advertisers.   Sponsors such as Panasonic, Chase, and Gatorade were among the signage sponsors in front of another disappointing crowd.

Business Bits: Opening Week, WPS and Milan

wpsAmway International, the presenting sponsor of the San Jose Earthquakes, has signed on as the jersey sponsor of the WPS’ L.A. Sol. The sponsorship will include the Amway name on the jersey, stadium signage and placement on an array of Sol items.  Perhaps most importantly for Amway, Brazilian Marta, perhaps the most recognizable star in Womens’ soccer, will now wear the Amway name.  In a separate deal, Marta signed a three year endorsement deal with the company.

In Salt Lake City, RSL has announced an “open house” at Rio Tinto Stadium.  The free event will include a Friendly with the Austin Aztek of the USL First Division, a meet the players component and plenty of family friendly activities.  With the fall 2008  opening of Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL has a beautiful new venue to showcase.  The open house seems like a fantastic way to introduce potential fans to the stadium without giving away the proudct (i.e. free tickets to games).  Rio Tinto looked and sounded great on TV during the playoffs and reports suggest that season ticket sales are up for 2009.

The Galaxy have wasted no time in selling tickets for their negotiated Friendly with AC Milan.  According to the team website, tickets are now on sale as part of a package with tickets for opening night.  While the game is free for season ticket holders, the two game package prices range from $50-$600.  It is somewhat surprising that L.A. would pair the Milan tickets with opening day because it suggests that opening day tickets aren’t selling well;  we’ll know in a week.  milan