Thursday, October 19, 2006

Soft Sell

The time: Last evening

The place: The posh Hilton at Short Hills,NJ, approximately 20 miles from Manhattan

The occasion: A meet-and-greet between MLS, AEG, and Red Bulls brass and prospective Red Bull Park suite buyers and sponsors

In attendance: MLS Commissioner Don Garber, AEG President and CEO Tim Lieweke, AEG NY President Nick Sakiewicz, various SUM/MLS and AEG staffers...and yours truly

I had a chance to press the flesh last night with some of the big names around the league at an event used to get some of the monied NJ gentry to pony up for Red Bull Park luxury suites.

Here are some tasty learnings:

-Lieweke: "If Red Bull Park is ready on time (July 2008), Chelsea will help christen the stadium."
-Don't be surprised to see a single table next season
-Univision matches will be Sunday night affairs
-Don't be surprised to see Figo in an MLS uniform next season (as reported by the always wonderful Metrofanatic)
-The Rapids' stadium rights naming announcement is imminent
-Kraft may be getting serious about his own SSS for the Revs
-Team Services, which was a league-office group dedicated to helping clubs build promotions and sell tickets will soon be reinstated. The group was discontinued in the great contraction of 2001. This should be a huge boon to markets where ticket sales have been slumping.

Following up on Trecker's recent article concerning marketing to adult fans, I had a lengthy conversation with two SUM guys. I asked them, given Garber's three target markets (Youth, Hispanic, Core Soccer), what type of serious effort whould be given to attract the adult MLS fan, the fan that wants to go to the game with a bunch of buddies and knock back some beers. The response, which disheartened me was (paraphrasing) "It's easier to get families into the no-alcohol sections that it is the other way around." (Sigh).

UPDATE/ONE MORE THING: In light of the field quality problems at the HDC since the facility opened, I asked an AEG exec about the issue of "overuse" at Red Bull Park. I was told that the partnership with Red Bull, and the physical limitations of Harrison, should prevent events like the X-Games at RBP. There certainly will be a slate of non-soccer events, but they should take it easier on the playing surface (which will be heated) than those held at Carson.

I'll have thoughts on NY-DC tomorrow. Let's go Mets.

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