Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Carnival of Soccer #6: Getting Butts in the Seats

Taking the reins from Jeff Bull over at It's a Simple Game, I'm here today to invite soccer bloggers one and all to take part in the Sixth and latest installment of the Carnival of American Soccer!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is as follows:

You've just been handed the plum position of MLS Marketing Director. MLS regular attendance (as I'm sure you know) reached its peak in the launch year of 1996. Since 2000, attendance has been relatively flat (thanks, Kenn):

2000: 13,756
2001: 14,961
2002: 15,821
2003: 14,898
2004: 15,559
2005: 15,108
2006: 15,502

Many of the tickets that your clubs sell or distribute go unused, creating unfilled stadiums that don't look so good during national TV broadcasts, which will increase next year with new ESPN and Univision contracts. The growing number of intimate, soccer-specific stadiums, has not produced a significant attendance boost.

Your commissioner has said that your three target market groups are, in order of priority:
-Youth soccer players and families
-"Core soccer fans"

Without changes to the league structure or season (i.e. single table, no playoffs, etc. etc.), and with a reasonable but not unlimited marketing budget, what will you do to give MLS the "cool factor" that will ensure an attendance increase next season and beyond?

Being the benevolent carny that I am, I'm giving you until Monday, November 6th to have your submission ready. Maybe a brave soul who'll be attending the Supporters Summit in Frisco can deliver our rantings to the MLS brass there. Can't wait to see what we come up with.


Anonymous said...

MLS needs to get ESPN and local sports news to talk more about MLS games. There was improved coverage this season, because of Beckham, but it was all about Beckham. I got the impression that the sports commentators at ESPN have no understanding of the game, other than the announcers for the soccer games. Sport Center commentators need to be able to discuss the game, other than just pointing out that Beckham passed the ball. It would also help if there was a weekly show covering the MLS and soccer world wide, on ESPN or ESPN2. Increase coverage on local news would also help. I use to live in DC and the Washington Post had a page dedicated to MLS each Friday. It is probably one of the reasons DC has relatively good attendance. The local TV stations also occasionally covered the games, although there still could be a lot of improvement. I now live in New England and I do not see the local media covering the Revs, even though they are having a great season. They should be getting much better attendance! I know the Red Sox are having a great season, but they are always sold out so there is plenty of room for the Revs. Somebody from MLS needs to get on the phone and start kicking some butt up here! The same could be said for New York!

Anonymous said...

There needs to be strategy in marketing to get some "butts in the seats." Of course, great game play is important, but so is the way tickets are dolled out. Here are a few ideas:

1. - recruit from European 2nd teir and development leagues. This will bring in quality players for minimal pay.

2. - 1/2 price ticket with college ID. A ticket sold at half price is better than none sold at all. And, they'll pay for drinks, food, etc.

3. - kids with at least a 3.0gpa on report card get a free ticket. Parents will have to buy one - so you get at least 2 people at the game. Parent pays for ticket and will probably buy drinks, food, and maybe a jersey or shirt.

4. - create some sort of deal with supporter clubs for season tickets at discounted prices. Or, provide some other perk - like meet w/ players, discounted jersey prices, or special parking or something - instead of discounting the ticket price. Not only might you get more people, but they'll have jerseys and such to help "promote" the team and league.

Good ideas?

Anonymous said...

How about better quality on the field? MLS needs to recognize that they are Championship level, not Premier league level. Get those kinds of players, show them that MLS can be a bridge to the Prem. If you can't pay them, then they need to see benefit somewhere else. This is it. MLS as a bridge to other leagues. It is done in Europe, we should do it here. This would bring in young talent.