SBJ/June 9 - 15, 2003/This Weeks Issue

MLS ’Quakes shake up brand image

Beginning next week, outdoor ad space will feature memorable imagery and a simple message to local fans: Think soccer.

The television spot opens with a shot of an older man in his hotel bed reading a book titled "The Complete History of Salt." He's propped up against the bed board, which is right next to the wall. All of a sudden, he is jolted by something pounding against the wall of the adjoining room.

It happens again and again — rhythmically. The man's expressions convey his confusion and frustration: What's banging his bed?

Cut to a shot of the adjoining room, where San Jose Earthquakes stars Landon Donovan and Jeff Agoos are heading a soccer ball repeatedly against the wall. While a voice-over says, "Want more action? Think soccer," the ad cuts to footage of an Earthquakes game, culminating in a goal by Donovan, who celebrates shirtless.

This is the Major League Soccer club's new TV spot, which was set to debut last Saturday on Fox Sports Net Bay Area's telecast of the Earthquakes' game. It's part of the team's brand-advertising campaign.

The 30-second spot — an edgy and irreverent, but light-hearted ad titled "Bed Banging" — will run through the season on FSN Bay Area; on the San Jose-based Telemundo affiliate, KSTS; and, through a local deal with Comcast, on ESPN and ESPN2.

The spot will run only during weeks in which the Earthquakes have home games, said James Eastwood, the team's director of advertising and marketing.

In addition to the TV time, the club has secured outdoor advertising space on local buses, at area bus stops and at stops along the city's light-rail system. Those ads, most of which are designed to be irreverent and humorous, are slated to go up next week and remain in place throughout the season, Eastwood said. Their tag line: "Think soccer."

The Earthquakes teamed with San Francisco ad agency Ad-Lib Creative to devise the brand-advertising campaign, which also features newspaper ads, radio spots and grassroots marketing initiatives. The latter, often tied to youth-soccer events in the community, are aimed primarily at soccer moms and kids.

Earthquakes executives would not disclose the dollar size of the overall campaign.

The "Bed Banging" spot, which contains no dialogue, is targeted largely at sports fans.

"In Landon Donovan, we have both the most talented and marketable soccer player in the country," said Earthquakes general manager Johnny Moore. Donovan, 21, was a standout on the U.S. national team that reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. "We needed to create a campaign which helped us showcase him without having him become the Earthquakes' identity," Moore said.

In addition to the "Think soccer" message, each of the outdoor ads features a single image.

One is a close-up of a woman's rear end. She's wearing fishnet stockings and a leather thong, and her right cheek is actually a soccer ball.

Among the other images showcased in the outdoor ads: a close-up of the back of a heavily tattooed man who has a soccer ball painted over his entire bald head; a shot of a garter belt-wearing woman getting a tattoo — a soccer ball with an arrow through it and an Earthquakes banner around it — on her thigh; and a close-up of a woman getting ready to eat an ice cream cone, in which the scoop of ice cream looks like a mini soccer ball. Each ad includes the team's logo and Web address and a phone number to call for Earthquakes game tickets.

"The most effective advertising is engaging, simple and memorable," Moore said. "We feel that with the use of captivating images and a strong, consistent message, we can rise above the clutter of hundreds of busy, in-your-face ads."

The campaign's newspaper ads debuted at the start of the MLS season in April and have been running solely in the San Jose Mercury News. Its radio spots are airing on local stations KNEW-AM, KEZR-FM, KYLD-FM and on the local Radio Unica affiliate.

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