SBD/December 6, 2013/Franchises

Sporting KC Proving To Be Model Club For Chiefs, Royals, Other MLS Franchises

Fans at Sporting Park can use paperless tickets and connect to in-stadium wireless
MLS Sporting KC has built what club CEO Robb Heineman "calls 'a tremendous benefit of the doubt' that borders on sycophancy from its fans and much of the local media," and this is a "fabulous credit to the organization, achieved through a meticulous brand-building strategy, and should be the envy of most every professional team both locally and nationally," according to Sam Mellinger of the K.C. STAR. The club is "working on something the Royals and Chiefs and any professional sports team of any size can and should try to emulate." Royals Senior VP/Business Operations Kevin Uhlich said, "They’re very creative." Chiefs President Mark Donovan: "They’re very smart about how they’ve communicated." Mellinger writes a fan can "go to a game at Sporting Park with [a] paperless ticket and connect [a] phone to the in-stadium wireless and feel the energy in a gorgeous stadium, and it’s tempting to think these bells and whistles and technological advances are the parts of the team’s success that should be modeled by bigger franchises." Perhaps why other clubs have trouble replicating SKC's success is "sheer scale, and part of it is demographics," as SKC "can do things that franchises with bigger fan bases just can’t." The club "can try things that more established brands just can’t." SKC has "been forward-thinking in how to provide fans with food and drink options and convenience," while players "are constantly accessible and interacting with fans." SKC fans "skew young, and technologically savvy," while Royals and Chiefs fans "are more like the broader demographics of the country." SKC has "made their fans part of the group in ways the Royals and Chiefs have slipped in recent years" (K.C. STAR, 12/6).

BIG EVENT FOR K.C. MARKET: In K.C., Sam McDowell writes SKC "isn’t just the latest local flavor anymore," as the club "has attracted the nation’s soccer spotlight." SKC will become the city's "first major professional sports team to play host to a championship game" since Game 7 of the Royals-Cardinals '85 World Series. SKC MF Graham Zusi said, "It’s extremely exciting to have this event in our home city. It’s a reward for ourselves and our fans for what we did this season" (K.C. STAR, 12/6).

GETTING SUPPORT: In K.C., Kathleen Grier notes one of the SKC supporters group -- The Cauldron -- "has come a long way." Cauldron leader Sean Dane said, "Even at an organization that now has 2,000 members and 10,000 followers on Twitter and all of this communication, the heart of it is still that one person bringing another person and conveying the passion that we have found for this team." Cauldron members "pay $20 to join and buy tickets through the group to sit together on the northeast side of the stadium." The club "helps the Cauldron by allowing them to use the stadium’s loading docks and hang out in the Members Club after games." The team also "provides tickets for away matches to members." Sporting Park GM Chris Wyche said, "Not every team in the league has the same communication level with their supporters as we do. But I think it really helps us have a great support group and a group that is very much independent of us." This "unique relationship between the Cauldron and Sporting KC’s front office has taken many years to build." But Dane said that the "real boost came when OnGoal, LLC bought the team" in '06. Dane: "It took an ownership group and front office staff that understood what the supporters’ culture could bring to the stadium and our ability to deliver it. Once we showed them, ‘Here is what’s possible -- just support us in it,' they were on board" (K.C. STAR, 12/6).
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Sporting Kansas City, Franchises, MLS

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