MLS CUP 2009: On the Ground in Seattle

With Seattle set to cap its impressive  inaugural season as an MLS City by hosting MLS Cup 2009 at Qwest Field, we thought we would check in with Seattle soccer guru David Falk, the man behind the comprehensive Seattle soccer website, about marketing efforts, media coverage and ticket sales for MLS Cup in Seattle.  With Seattle not in the game, we were curious about how the game was perceived in the Emerald City and David, who also writes for the Seattle Soccer Examiner, provided some great insight.  Thanks to David for his thoughts.  Beyond newspaper coverage, what has been the level of mainstream coverage of the game? Are local outlets, sports radio, etc… covering the match?

David  Falk:  There will be guests on Sports Radio (KJR AM 950) this week, but it doesn’t look to be any bigger than a Sounders match week so far.

FB: There is evidence of Sounders’ season ticket holders seeking to offload their seats.  What is your sense of the interest level among Sounders’ fans in attending the game?

DF: Mixed, but most want to still go. Some are selling their seats to LA and Utah fans who want the best views. Some are giving them away, even. Still, it is likely that the lower bowl won’t have too many empty spots. A Chicago-LA match-up would have increased the ticket demand and the rate of those that showed up. There will still be a “March to the Match,” it is still the last ticket in our season package…so unless the weather is an absolute downpour, Seattle should represent. Are Seattle fans “excited” about the match? I have yet to hear from anyone that is.

FB: Tickets for the game have been parceled out with the recent opening of 6,000 additional seats.  Do you agree with the decision to limit availability?  Do you think there is a good argument for opening the entire stadium?

DF: They are handling the MLS Cup ticket sales just fine. Beckham v. Blanco could have sold more, but now what they’ve offered is more than enough.

FB: Are there ongoing efforts to advertise the game to Seattle residents?  What are those efforts?

DF: None that I have seen. Perhaps through the Sounders website and emails to all 24,000 ticket holders. Billboards…no. Bus signs…no. TV commercials? No.  We did get a letter from Garber asking us all to show up:

We also recommend you check out the extensive coverage of the game on the Seattle Times website.

Seattle Sounders: A Look Back

soundersYear one of the Seattle Sounders’ MLS campaign is concluded, and it has been a success in every way.  Here is what we wrote in March:

First Kick 2009 is just days away, and the League’s newest franchise is directly in the cross hairs of MLS fans.  They have sold the tickets; more than 20k season ticket sales have been announced for 2009.  They have landed the big name sponsor; Microsoft has signed on for $ 4 million for over five years.  They have marketed aggressively; billboards, scarves and advertising have been plastered all over the City. They have signed an impressive local broadcast deal, allowing a revered local voice to bring Sounders soccer over the air. They will also have a presence on cable.    According to to David Falk, the man in charge of the comprehensive Seattle Soccer website, Fox Sports Northwest will sponsor a weekly Sounders show and run game replays.  They have spent on players, including a DP, and have created an outstanding website. If MLS Executives were to imagine the perfect off the field scenario for an expansion team, Seattle, circa March 16, 2009 would be the dream. Now it has to continue going forward.  Fans have to keep buying tickets, the media needs to keep aggressively covering the Sounders  and Seattle needs to make it happen on the field.

Well, check, check and check!  The crowds kept coming (they grew), the local media coverage remained oustanding, and the Sounders continued to perform on the field.  The Sounders were one of the great American sports stories of 2009; not just MLS. Philadelphia, Vancouver and Portland now have a definite model to follow (TFC certainly works as an example as well).  Despite all of the success in year one, Seattle has one more big soccer test to pass.  Will the crowd for MLS Cup 2009 bring down the curtain on the campaign with a bang or a whimper?  Beckham v. Blanco would be great for attendance (although RSL/LA would be more pleasent to watch.  If Seattle can fill Qwest for the final as a neutral site venue, it would be the perfect capper to a wonderful season.

Soccer Business Bits: Money in Salt Lake, Fredy in Seattle and More

rslWe promised part IV of our series on MLS fans, but with so many business stories around American soccer today, we thought we would postpone part IV and touch on some of those stories.  We will return to our fan series next week.

In Salt Lake City, the Tribune is reporting  that the MLS all star weekend generated more than $3 million in tourist dollars for the local economy.  Including non-tourist dollars (i.e. locals spending money), it is estimated that more than $9 million was spent in the community because of the MLS event.  These are the types of figures that are important for MLS as it looks to build stadiums and add franchises.  The ability to pour this type of money into a local economy, through the occupancy of hotels, purchase of merchandise and other commercial transactions is an important consideration for communities evaluating the possibility of spending money on MLS.

Elsewhere, the Seattle Times is reporting that Columbian forward Fredy Montero is now the property of MLS.  The former Deportivo Cali striker had been on loan to Seattle, but he is now owned by MLS.  Montero is just 21 and is in the picture for the Colombian National Team.  MLS will now stand to benefit from both his play and the possibility of a future sale.  Click here for more on this story.

One final note, American star Landon Donovan reportedly tested positive for Swine Flu.  While not a “business bit” per se, it is definitely a reminder about the amount of travel inherent in the sport of soccer.  Especially in MLS where players are repeatedly subject to commercial flights, the perils of travel are omnipresent.

The Seattle Sounders at the Halfway Mark: Good Business

soundersJust over three months ago, we took a look at the business model for the expansion Seattle Sounders.  With the season at the halfway mark, we thought we would take another look at soccer in the Emerald City.  In an indication that demand remains strong for tickets, the Sounders recently announced that they are making more seats available, making it almost certain that the team will set an MLS attendance record.  Fans continue to flock to Qwest for arguably the best stadium experience in MLS, and perhaps most importantly, the Sounders continue to perform on the field.

The Sounders also continue to do the little things right; the Sounders’ web page is second to none in the League.  While other teams have deviated from the MLS web template, the Sounders have done an outstanding job of creating an interactive destination for their fans. Live chats with the Team are offered, links to multiple blogs, an oustanding ticket engine, promotion information and more. In addition, the presence of the Sounders’ band offers a unique element in MLS.

Media coverage continues to be outstanding, with multiple print outlets covering the Sounders from every angle.  The Seattle sports radio station features the Sounders prominently.  The same goes for local televsion stations (and TV ratings are reported as quite strong).  While this level of coverage is not unprecedented, it is far more than many MLS teams.  MLS fans struggle to find coverage of their teams in many markets, and the opportunity to seek information from multiple sources is simply another avenue for fans to connect to and support their team.

Will the success continue?  The same factors discussed in our original piece probably still apply.  The team needs to do well, the experience has to continue to provide fans with something unique and the Sounders have to continue to do well in their fan outreach.    However, 1/2 of the way into their first season, the Sounders continue to do well in all aspects.  With new teams coming in Philly, Vancouver and Portland, Seattle will continue to be a model franchise for expansion.  xboxThe success in Seattle looks like it is here to stay.

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.

Soccer Business Bits: Seats in Seattle and More

soundersA bit of business potpurri today.  Building on its sellout success, the Seattle Sounders have announced that they are opening additional seats for the rest of the season at Qwest.  The Sounders have averaged almost 30k during the season and are now adding some additional seats for the rest of year, bringing capacity to 32,000, the same amount of seats that were available on opening day.  With 22,000 season tickets and a large amount of additional demand, the additional capacity will enable more fans to experience Sounders’ soccer this year.  It will also increase MLS average attendance for the season.  The team also recently announced new 9 game packages and confirmed friendlies with Barcelona and Chelsea.  With those games included in the 9 game packs (along with MLS CUP), the Sounders may hit that 32k for the rest of the year.

It will be interesting to see if the Sounders can sell the additional seats for every game.  As we have said before, Seattle has continued to hit the right notes with all of their business moves and this seems like a calculated gamble that will increase revenues for 2009.  There is risk if the team finds that it cannot find takers for all seats to every game.  The Sounders might unwittingly find where attendance is capped.  That could create a ripple effect whereby there is less demand next year and some negative press if they ultimately close the newly opened sections.

In Salt Lake City, RSL is looking to build on its solid attendance showing from last week.  As part of that effort, The Team announced a buy one get one free promotion with Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Fans can obtain the vouchers at 35 KFC Restaurants around the Salt Lake area.  The promotion is part of an ongoing relationship between KFC and RSL.

Finally, in Los Angeles, Chivas looks to continue its strong start on the field and at the gate againt DC United on Saturday.  As part of those efforts, they are offering a “kid’s pack” which offers a free ticket for any child under the age of 16 with the purchase of a full adult ducat.  The same package is offered for a number of upcoming games and is capped at 8 sets per purchase.  The numbers have been impressive for Chivas this year and the big “Blanco game” is on the horizon.  It will be interesting to see if the Goats can keep the fans coming.

Seattle Sounders: A retrospective

soundersWith a long weekend upon us (for some), holiday travel in the air and the Seattle Sounders’ third home game a day away, we thought a look back at the lead-up to Seattle’s “first kick” appropriate.  The Sounders have continued strong tickets sales, have performed brilliantly on the field and have generated positive press in both soccer and mainstream media.  Three weeks into the season, much of the League is struggling at the gate (weather? economy? something else?), yet Seattle fans have continued to buy tickets (there are reports that the next few games are already sold out).

At the same time, we are only three weeks in, there have been no “bad times” for Seattle fans to struggle through, and the sellouts are largely artificial (how many tickets would they sell if they opened up Quest?).  Nevertheless, it has been a dream start for Seattle in every possible way.  For our lazy holiday weekend post, we tracked our discussion of the business of the Sounders in the weeks prior to opening day.  Check below for the links and enjoy the holidays.

On February 23, we took a long look at Seattle’s efforts to market the team in the lead-up to the new season.  We discussed Qwest as a soccer venue and got some thoughts from David Falk of and the Seattle Soccer Examiner.  On March 6, we showcased Seattle’s “scarf Seattle” campaign.  The Sounders were the talk of the City and the soccer world with their innovative guerrilla marketing strategy.

On March 20, we examined Seattle’s business model as “First Kick” arrived. We talked tickets, T.V. and conducted a pretty interesting poll.   Feel free to keep voting.  Just this week, we got New England Revolution COO Brian Bilello’s thoughts on the Rev’s new marketing campaign, but he also weighed on what lessons (if any) established clubs can take from the Sounders’ marketing and outreach efforts.  We’ve touched on Seattle elsewhere; they are the new kid in town.  Enjoy the look back.