Soccer Business Bits: WPS Goes Pink, Ticket Sales In KC & More

In an effort to increase breast cancer awareness, Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), in conjunction with PUMA will outfit players in special Project Pink kits for five WPS matches. Puma has also created a range of Project Pink merchandise that will be available for purchase beginning this summer and continuing through Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Profits from the sale of PUMA’s Project Pink gear will be donated to a nonprofit committed to breast cancer awareness or research; the beneficiary will be named as the result of a national online voting campaign.  For more on the “good works” of various American soccer leagues, check out our series on the charitable efforts of MLS and WPS here.

In the aftermath of the Wizards’ surprising showing against Manchester United, USA Today is reporting that the team sold 700 new season tickets for their 2011 campaign in their new stadium.  If these are indeed new season ticket holders, the 700 new additions show the power of these friendlies to attract existing soccer fans to their local MLS side.  Clearly the Wizards put on a good show, and despite the overwhelming percentage of the crowd that came dressed in red, many Manchester fans came away impressed with Kansas City.  With a new stadium just months away, momentum appears to be building in Kansas City to vault the Wizards to the next level.

Finally, league sponsors Panasonic and Best Buy are joining forces to sponsor a meet and greet with an array of MLS all-stars. The event is part of the week long festivities in Houston in advance of the match against Manchester United.  The event provides fans with the opportunities to meet players, get autographs and play video games.

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Footiebusiness Charity Week: MLS W.O.R.K.S

Last week we took at look at various American soccer charity efforts especially those in Haiti. The charitable efforts of professional sports leagues and teams are typically overlooked by their fans, yet they are an important component of the community outreach programs in which almost all leagues are involved.  In addition to providing a way to give back to the community, local charitable efforts often provide teams with an outstanding opportunity to connect with fans and potential fans.

This week we will focus on the charitable efforts of the American Soccer Community.  We have interviewed league representatives from MLS and WPS and individual teams to find out how soccer “gives back”.  We start today with MLS Executive Vice President JoAnn Neale who overseas MLS W.O.R.K.S., the charitable arm of MLS.  Thanks to Ms. Neale for her thoughts on MLS W.O.R.K.S., and check back during the week more stories about soccer and charity.

Footiebusiness.com: What is MLS W.O.R.K.S.  What was the impetus for forming it in 2007?

JoAnn Neale: MLS W.O.R.K.S. is Major League Soccer’s community outreach initiative, dedicated to addressing important social issues affecting young people, and it serves as a platform for both League and club philanthropic programs.  MLS W.O.R.K.S. seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport. MLS W.O.R.K.S. was launched in April 2007 as way for the League to partner with charitable organizations on a national level, but to also highlight and promote the charitable efforts of its clubs and players who give back to their local communities.

FB: MLS W.O.R.K.S. is involved with many different organizations.  How is it decided where to allocate time and resources from WORKS to these organizations?

JN: MLS W.O.R.K.S. supports many organizations on various levels, but we try to partner with organizations that align with our objectives and make sense both nationally and in local markets with MLS clubs.

FB: Do MLS teams participate in W.O.R.K.S. or are there individual charities and outreach groups associated with individual teams?  How is it determined which players participate in W.O.R.K.S. events?

JN: Although most of our clubs have their own charitable foundations and support local organizations, all 16 clubs support MLS W.O.R.K.S. and our initiatives.  Because our markets vary so much, we create our programs with flexibility so they can be shaped to have relevance in each community.  We work closely with our clubs to find player ambassadors that support our initiatives, but we also work to highlight all the charitable efforts of our players in each market, even if they are not W.O.R.K.S. specific.

FB: How can fans get involved?  Are there any specific auction items fans should be on the lookout for?

JN: We recently launched the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Community Service Program, a collaborative effort to combine sport and service, promote goodwill within MLS markets and improve lives and communities at the grassroots level.  Part of the program, which we will be expanding during the 2010 season, is to highlight what our fans are doing to make a difference in their communities.  We will launch a contest during the 2010 season to recognize fans from each market that are going above and beyond.

Currently, we are conducting an online auction to help raise additional awareness and funds to support Unicef and their relief efforts for children and families in Haiti.

FB: W.O.R.K.S. advertising is present on signboards during games and on MLS broadcasts.  How is it determined when/where W.O.R.K.S. programs are advertised.

JN: We will be increasing our marketing efforts during the 2010 season to try and give our initiative and charitable partners additional exposure during various times of the season.  For instance, leading up to and surrounding Earth Day, we will promote MLS W.O.R.K.S. Greener Goals and during October, W.O.R.K.S. field boards will be pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness.

MLS Charities: Helping Through Soccer

mlsPart of our focus on the business aspects of soccer in the United States involves the occassional look at the charitable works around the sport.  In San Jose, the Earthquakes are hosting a “Fight for the Cure Day” as partof their June 20 match.  Sponsored by Comcast, the event includes recognition of cancer survivors and the provision of pins to the first 5,000 fans at the game.  The team is also putting together packages for the game that include seats, food and transportation. A portion of the proceeds will go to various cancer charities.

US Soccer continues to promote its Passback program.  The Passback program is an initiative to provide soccer equipment to underprivileged communities.  The program collects used equipment, including cleats, balls and more.  The program also includes an array of traveling clinics for young players in disadvantaged communities around the country.  In Columbus, The Crew will be holding a collection effort at their upcoming June 27 home game.

Finally, MLS Works continues to be the go-to charitable effort in MLS. The two year old effort combines community outreach programs and involvement with an array of charities.  The MLS Works Auctions provide fans with an opportunity to purchase game worn jerseys and other team gear with the proceeds going to charity.

Obviously, this is just a brief look into the world of soccer’s charitable efforts.  However, it is important to recognize that the teams and players do devote a fair amount of time to community interaction.  From a business perspective, this gives the Teams an opportunity to connect with potential fans while creating a positive image for soccer.