SBD/Issue 135/MLS Season Preview

Real Salt Lake Takes Measured Approach To Marketing Adu

By Brad Pinkerton, Staff Writer

After his much-hyped arrival in MLS in ’04, wunderkind Freddy Adu was traded from DC United to Real Salt Lake this offseason, much to the delight of RSL execs. But while Adu is prominent in the team’s marketing efforts, the club has tried not to overshadow its other personalities, said RSL Senior Dir of Marketing Trey Fitz-Gerald. “We’ve been trying to be careful about not creating a situation where it’s 100% Freddy and forgetting about the 27 other players on the team,” Fitz-Gerald said. Adu is featured on a billboard off I-15 in town, as well as on outdoor creative and print ads. But he is in just one of eight local TV spots running this season as part of a campaign, via Love Communications, Salt Lake City, tagged “Unleash the Passion.” Fitz-Gerald said, “As a team entering our third year, we have a couple team objectives; one of those is shedding the ‘expansion’ label. ... Now we’ve got a guy who has the most recognizable name, face and smile in American soccer.”

IMPACT: The signing of Adu has “a huge impact” on ticket sales, Fitz-Gerald said. The club has seen 90% of its 7,200 season-ticket holders from ’06 renew and is pacing $1M ahead in ticket revenue compared to this point last year. RSL is still waiting on a shipment of their authentic ’07 adidas jerseys, but Fitz-Gerald estimated the team has already taken more than 2,000 pre-orders for Adu’s No. 11.

GAME PLAN: PepsiCo and RSL officials were meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss how the company will activate locally around Adu, a Sierra Mist endorser, this season. Sierra Mist is also an official MLS partner. While nothing was yet concrete, Pepsi Sports Marketing Manager Andrew Jaffe said many of the brand’s local initiatives featuring Adu will likely mirror its national campaigns. “From a national perspective, you’re going to see him on all our in-store [POS material],” he said. “You’re going to see him leveraged on the Sierra Mist Web site. You’re going to see him woven into player appearances [locally].” In addition, Sierra Mist plans to involve Adu in community outreach programs in Salt Lake City, perhaps a soccer clinic. Jaffe added Adu’s move from DC to the smaller market of Salt Lake City will not alter the company’s approach to marketing him. Meanwhile, attempts to reach Nike regarding its local marketing plans for Adu were unsuccessful, but Fitz-Gerald said the company filmed a commercial with Adu during the team’s preseason stop in L.A.

LIMITED TIME: Although promoting Adu has helped RSL’s business, there’s a delicate balance between the time Adu spends on soccer versus marketing commitments. Since arriving in Salt Lake City for the first time last week, Adu has already held an autograph session along with a teammate at a local KFC. There are also plans to have him frequently appear on programs for flagship radio and TV partners, and Fitz-Gerald said Adu could have his own radio talk show once he “eases into the team and the community.” Fitz-Gerald: “Some of Freddy’s close advisers feel like he thrives on that — that doing the media stuff and the community stuff actually feeds his confidence and motivates and energizes his on-field stuff.”

 

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