SBD/June 25, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLS Wants To Connect With Fans Through Signings Of USMNT Members

Zusi, Bradley and Dempsey (l to r) have all played key roles during the World Cup
MLS President & Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said signing U.S. men's national soccer team players "was a key part of our strategy" so that when fans watch World Cup games, "goals are being scored by players that you can go see the very next week" in MLS. Abbott, appearing on Bloomberg TV's "Taking Stock" on Monday said, "What we decided in the last year is we wanted to bring back and re-sign as many of the U.S. national team players as we could." He said the "biggest challenge" for MLS is "continuing to execute on our plan." Bloomberg TV's Pimm Fox noted MLS is "looking to convert on this surge in attention" by fans in the U.S. when it resumes league play. Abbott said the "spine" of the U.S. World Cup team plays in MLS, including F Clint Dempsey and MF Michael Bradley. Abbott: "We don’t have to create soccer fans in this country, we just have to capture more of the market of the fans that already exist. That's a pretty enviable position for any business to be in" ("Taking Stock," Bloomberg TV, 6/23). Meanwhile, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said of how the league can capitalize on viewership and enthusiasm of the national team and translate it to MLS, “It starts with really the logos on that scarf. It’s connecting your club and your country and having players on our national team who play in Major League Soccer. ... We have to connect the dots between this national team and our players, getting the spine of our team on with these record numbers and following it up" (“Morning Joe,” MSNBC, 6/23).

HOPPING ON THE BANDWAGON: Fire COO Atul Khosla said that the MLS club's business side "began planning for the World Cup last year." In Chicago, Brian Sandalow notes Fire execs "planned for their media buys and marketing campaign, which has included airing commercials during game broadcasts and putting players and team branding at Grant Park and other events." Fire F Mike Magee and assistant coach Clint Mathis were on stage at halftime of the U.S.' matches to "break down the games while putting in the occasional plug for the club." The Fire have "increased engagement with fans and have gotten access" to more TVs. They also have "received positive feedback." Khosla said, "Our marketing strategy doesn’t end here. This is one big pillar, but this is a pillar. And we’ve got to aggressively market the club on an ongoing basis" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/25). However, in Boston, Steve Buckley writes, "If I don’t get wrapped up in the Revolution, it’s because MLS games are not historic, be-all, end-all events that we’ll be talking about for the rest of our lives." People "don’t pack the diners and bars in my neighborhood to watch the MLS, and a Revolution victory isn’t enough to inspire people to drive down the street with horns a-blarin’ and a team banner fluttering in the breeze" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/25).
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