Tag Archives: marketing

Women’s Pro Soccer: Content is King (2/2)

“One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create. … It allows material to be duplicated at low cost, no matter the size of the audience. The Internet also allows information to be distributed worldwide at basically zero marginal cost to the publisher. Opportunities are remarkable, and many companies are laying plans to create content for the Internet.” Content is King, Bill Gates, 1/3/1996

If the sports fan is the target audience for the new women’s professional soccer league and the language they speak is the sports narrative then providing that content becomes paramount to any marketing plan. Bill Gates was correct when he declared “Content is King” and increasingly viewed the internet as a cost effective vehicle for publishing content to a limitless audience.

The DIY Approach

Establishing the narrative of women’s professional soccer will require a do-it-yourself approach in comparison to other pro sports, but the cost of generating quality content and deploying that content to a large audience is lower than ever.

Three immediate needs to achieving this are:

  1. Identifying the team’s story
  2. Planning how that story unfolds through the course of a season, and
  3. Generating the content that supports that story in an organized fashion.

Cost will always be a factor, but if you spend money during the planning stages and for initial premium content the remaining work can be delegated.

Find players comfortable with writing, radio, podcasts, video, photography, language skills for outreach to large Spanish speaking and soccer loving audience, and even some of the office side of things.

Evaluate and Involve the Workforce: Players
College graduates have skills and the majority of pro soccer players have benefited from excellent educational opportunities. Players have responsibilities on the field and off when it comes to the physical side of their job and I would suggest part of the responsibilities off field should include being more involved with the promotion of their team, relationships with their city, and use of their education.

Evaluate everyone’s skills. Most players can handle basic social media like twitter, but with all of those degrees in play there has to be more talent available for use. Find players comfortable with writing, radio, podcasts, video, photography, language skills for outreach to large Spanish speaking and soccer loving audience, and even some of the office side of things. Make sure players are comfortable with what they are doing, but make sure they are all doing something. From the stars on down to the rookies.

Generate Content

When it comes to social media there are many inexpensive ways leaving a footprint, building relationships with fans, and adding to the narrative. It is important to not neglect even the smallest opportunities. For example, the Charlotte Bobcats include twitter handles with their roster list. It’s a simple idea, but not every team does the obvious.

Social media has been included in past league incarnations to varying degrees of success. Being intentional with the narrative for the season, establishing a plan to tell that story, and executing it is something that can finally bring all of the pieces together. What also has improved is the scope of social media’s outreach. The sports conversation on twitter is huge. YouTube provides a free place to upload videos. iTunes and it’s competitors provides a place for audio. Tumblr and Instagram have their own fandom cultures primed and ready for content.

Identify types of content that can support the plan for the year. Content that promotes the personality of the team, documents the journey, provides educational material for youth teams, fun and spontaneous moments, or simply setting up a camera at a short-side scrimmage and let the game speak for itself. Invest in a small HD video camera, a tripod, and basic video editing tools to use when appropriate. Make more of a professional investment with an initial “trailer” to launch the season and important videos like post-game interviews and the occasional specials.

These are a few examples that I thought worked well:

These are types of content. How different types fit or not into the season plan depends on what the marketing team decides during the early stages.

Seattle Sounders Women: Video Blog
Nothing like hours on a bus, airport, hotel, or at a post game victory meal to get players feeling creative. The team may be out of town for a week, but fans can be brought along for the ride.



BleacherReport: Trick Shots
Showing off your soccer skills is never a wasted moment. Some players will feel the most comfortable in this environment. It’s both useful to show the skills of individual players and provides content that would appeal on a sports education level.



US Soccer: Ball Trick Battle
Something easy for people to share online.



US Soccer: Short-sided Scrimmage
This is set up the camera and let it roll kind of content.



FC Gold Pride: Day in the Life
Being fun is encouraged. Personalities are a plus.



Jeremy Lin’s Official YouTube Channel
A good variety of videos from overly produced to more spontaneous.



Studio FGFC: Player Interviews
Not every interview has to be on the silly side. Feel free to be soccer nerds.



Post-Game Interviews
Sponsor backdrop opportunities too.



Post-Game Interviews
It gives people something to look for after they get home from a game.



Involve International Player’s Experience
I see a lot of this for Americans abroad. It would be nice to give more of an effort in the reverse.



Sounders Women: Use Your Language Skills
Connect with the soccer community wherever you find it.



Portland Timbers Instagram Feed
Great for quick behind the scenes shots. Link



Players Blogs
Hopefully some players already have been blogging about their soccer experiences. Link



Be a Guest Blogger
If the local paper doesn’t want to cover the team see if they would be willing to take on a player blogger. (I’m not sure what this particular relationship was, but it would be nice if every team could infiltrate at least the local media.) Link



Push Your Message to Multiple Platforms
Once you create content you can do more than just put it up on the official site or Facebook. Push the same content out through as many social media avenues as possible. Tumblr, as just one example, has a community of soccer fans that remains largely untapped by any direct interaction with official channels. Post videos and teasers with links back to the official site to draw them in. Post photos from games. Tag the players names to make to visible to the soccer fandom on tumblr. Instagram has made a surge lately too. Once the content is made it can be used in more than in one place.

Women’s Pro Soccer: Market the Narrative (1/2)

Recently the sports community benefited from a Soccer Wire article by Joanna Lohman on marketing to the innovators. While it was preaching to the choir on some points, it definitely got the ball rolling on discussions concerning the new women’s pro soccer league that is kicking off spring of 2013.

The yet unnamed league is in the early stages and is developing largely behind closed doors at the moment. Meanwhile the rest of us looking in have had a lot of thoughts built up over the years. Many of us were there for one or both past leagues folding. No one wants a repeat of that, but what can be done to avoid a similar fate?

Lohman’s Innovators

Many of us read Lohman’s arguments supporting marketing to the innovators and the discussion that followed. Check that out if you haven’t yet or to brush up on the soccer superfan. I can see the appeal for both the players and superfans to reach out to each other. If just for sanity sake. As an athlete or as a superfan it has to be nice to know there are people out there who love the sport as much as you and express it in the same ways.

Marketing to the innovator isn’t a new idea outside of the sport. A number of industries rely heavily on a core fanbase of superfans to survive financially and creatively. The music industry is a big one. Recently Lady Gaga’s unique success was broken down to the fact she aimed primarily to the 1% of her most loyal superfans. That’s a viable option when your 1% is being factored from millions. She found the fans that spoke to her, drove her creativity, and a byproduct marketing to them is a product that appeals to millions.

What if your 1% equals 20-30 super loyal fans per team? Owners would rightfully point out that between the “butts in seats” need and sponsorship opportunities marketing to the superfan isn’t an option at the moment. They don’t carry the numbers and by their nature are so loyal they will come if you market to them or not.

There aren’t enough superfans out there. How do you create more? What switch do you flip in a person to turn them into that kind of fan?

Who Do You Target Then?

I argue that both the superfans and youth soccer (the latter being the target audience of the past two leagues) are the two groups that require the least amount of effort as far as marketing goes. In some ways both groups are the most predictable and the most frustrating.

The Superfan
Everybody loves the superfan and would love to have a section of them at every game. As long as we have our wishlist out how about a stadium full of them? There aren’t enough superfans out there. How do you create more? What switch do you flip in a person to turn them into that kind of fan? As a superfan I’m not even sure. I’ve not infected anyone to that level yet. I have some sway over average sports fans to get them to a game or two, but setting the hook is another matter entirely.

Youth Soccer
The opposite is true for youth soccer. There are lots of youth soccer (be it soccer moms, dads, or coaches bringing in young people), but how do you convince the youth soccer element that their already busy schedules can afford more than two or three trips to a game per season? To their advantage, as a group they are the most numerous. They also are the most busy. You can count on them like clockwork for what they have time to give you, but no amount of marketing can change the fact they are busy people. And where have they all gone over the years? Two leagues marketed to them. If that worked then we should see thousands of  18-30 year-old women graduating from that system and filling the stands. The people who grew up being marketed to have not made the jump to being adult sports fans. Instead we have a Logan’s Run scenario. After a certain age they evaporate no matter how much you cater to them as children.

Both the superfan and youth soccer are loyal in their own way, but seem steadfast in either their lack of numbers or the level of commitment they have available to give you.

The Sports Fan
What group is both large in number and is predisposed to become more than a one or two game fan? I say it’s the sports fan. Anything ranging from the casual level sports fan to the soccer purist who needs to be exposed to the women’s game. They are by far the most numerous and ultimately the “butts in seats” segment that make up any mainstream sport out there. They are the group you want your youth soccer segment to learn to grow into, the lifelong fans of the sport in general, and the group that would enjoy the atmosphere created by the superfans the most. They have the potential of developing the sustainability of the superfans with the numbers of youth soccer.

Creating a narrative is an important part of developing a fan. It might start off as seeing one game, but it needs to be about getting invested in the story of the season.

Who are these sports fans? What marketing language do they speak? What can be done to create an environment conductive to their needs that would also appeal to the superfan and youth soccer fans?

Tap into the Narrative

Major sports in America have 24/7 exposure, a built in audience, and loads of money. The narrative of their teams are out there in front of the public all the time and running on momentum that is fueled by fans, media, and history as much as by the direct efforts of the organization. If you move to Chicago and want to get to know the Bulls you have many avenues to do so. The story is everywhere. That’s the environment where the sports fan exists.

Creating a narrative is an important part of developing a fan. It might start off as seeing one game, but it needs to be about getting invested in the story of the season. The gaps that are easily filled in the major sports leagues need to be filled somehow. If someone goes to a game and comes home to look a player up online or looks at the schedule there needs to be compelling content for them to run into. They expect content. Content that they are used to taking in every day in other sports like breathing, but because of the start-up nature of women’s sports has to be created for this team in a DIY fashion.

Jump-starting a Narrative
The Houston Texans, the youngest NFL team, has tried to speed up it’s brand depth by doing some of this themselves. They are trying to turn the casual fan into a lifelong supporter. While they obviously have more money than the entirety of the women’s league, they recognize the need to be proactive on this front.

For an example closer to home look no further than Paris St.-Germain. The women’s team that recently signed Lindsey Horan, the American player who turned down a college scholarship to play for them. PSG is making every effort to be the best in their league and perhaps best in the world and they want everyone to know that goal. After five minutes of this video you know exactly what they are about this season and the next ten for that matter.