SBD/March 27, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Minding My Business With MLS Fire Senior Dir of Marketing Linda Connors

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Connors embraces the creativity inherent in branding a relatively young franchise
Chicago Fire Senior Dir of Marketing LINDA CONNORS spent most of the past decade as a marketing exec with the NFL and the Bears, and considers her role in launching "NFL 101" among her greatest accomplishments while working in the league. Now in her first year with the MLS club, she finds herself forming the identity of a new brand for a younger demographic. Connors talked with THE DAILY about collaborative marketing efforts between team and league, her most trusted medium to sell tickets, and even her favorite online music site.

Best advice I've ever received... 
It was from my mentor (former Sonics VP/Marketing) PAM MALONE. Marketing decisions take creative liberties. It’s not like ticket sales or sponsorship where you’re up against hard numbers, and I think it can be a little bit nebulous at times because everybody has an opinion. She sort of taught me her thought process every time she made big decisions. Everything really came down to the criteria of four things: Is it going to drive revenue? Is it going to match the brand? Is it going to deliver a quality experience for the consumer? Is it going to go to press? Whenever we came up with creative concepts, it had to meet that criteria. I’ve used that throughout my career.

MLS vs. NFL...
With the Bears, they are in a different situation. The challenge there was creating touch points for the fans. We created training camp, did things around the Draft, and things with marquee events that made sense around the football calendar. The difference with the Fire is it’s an opportunity to mold a new brand because it is such a new league. I get to be a lot more creative and have more flexibility to do so, and there’s a lot of grassroots that takes place in the MLS. The demographics are a lot younger in the MLS versus the other leagues. It’s the first generation really that grew up with MLS and became fans, so they grew up playing soccer and then become soccer fans.

Teamwork with MLS marketing...
I used to work with (MLS CMO) HOWARD HANDLER when I was at the NFL. They are very, very accessible. I work with them every week on things. They launched their first national campaign, “This is Soccer,” and they put together tool kits for the teams so that we had the opportunity to use it locally, which we did here in Chicago, and it’s called, “This is Soccer. This is Chicago.” They’re always there to give advice and guidance on so many levels.

Best medium to sell tickets...
I come from radio, and I think radio is a great medium for selling tickets.

iPhone or Blackberry...
I love an iPhone. I used to have a BlackBerry a couple years ago, and when I stepped up to the iPhone, it was like going from a black-and-white TV to a color TV. I just love the technology, and how easy it is to use, and that everything is right there.

Latest music download...
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, and I’m dialed in to Pandora.

Stress reliever...
Racing sailboats and golfing.

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