SBJ/February 26 - March 4, 2007/This Weeks News

Red Bulls street team will show off soccer

When Andrew Lafiosca joined the staff of the Red Bull Energy Drink company in 2000, he became a member of a New Jersey street team that passed out cans of the energy drink in the area and interacted with consumers.

The Red Bulls will send talented
amateur soccer players to interact
with potential fans.

Now, as the vice president of marketing and sales for the New York Red Bulls, he’s bringing that same marketing approach to the company’s Major League Soccer team.

The organization plans to hire a team of talented amateur soccer players who will be sent to key areas in the tri-state area beginning in March. They’ll do exhibitions for youth teams, play pick-up games with teenagers and show off in front of adults.

The marketing effort, one of the first developed since Red Bull bought the team last year, highlights how the team will try to reach potential ticket buyers much the same way the energy drink has tried to reach consumers.

“Instead of sampling a can of Red Bull,” Lafiosca said, “we’re sampling the game of soccer.”

The organization has often heard people say that it’s “a pain in the neck to get to Giants Stadium” where they play, Lafiosca added, but by bringing the street team to potential ticket buyers he believes they can overcome that barrier.

Red Bull selected the 11-member team through a tryout called “Futbol de Calle,” which challenged soccer players in the tri-state area to show off their skill juggling a soccer ball.

More than 160 people competed at three events. They were interviewed by team representatives looking for bilingual, articulate players and then showed off their skills with a soccer ball before a panel of judges. One competitor managed to take off his shoe and sock while still keeping the ball in the air on his right foot.

Between 16 and 20 met in a final showdown Sunday night at Webster Hall, and the winners were named to the Red Bulls’ new street team.

The players will work for the Red Bulls part time and will be available 24/7, Lafiosca said. They’ll often be sent out in groups of two to four to targeted areas.

Eventually, they’ll carry real-time, personal digital assistants in the field that will prompt them to answer questions about their interactions — from the age of the people they speak with to whether or not they’ve ever attended a Red Bulls game, Lafiosca said.

For now, though, the team’s success will be measured by ticket sales. Last year, the team’s average attendance was 14,570, seventh in the 12-team league (now 13 teams). Lafiosca hopes the street team can help increase that number.

“If the team goes out to Jersey City and plays with the Jersey City youth soccer team and our sales guy gets a call from them a few weeks later, we’ll know that had an impact,” Lafiosca said. “For now, we’re hoping to focus on building an emotional connection and translate our message through them to the community.”

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