SBJ/May 21-27, 2012/Franchises

Hot new uniform designer: Facebook

The Los Angeles Galaxy is drawing on the reach of social media to give fans a stake in the team’s on-field look, unveiling a Facebook application that lets the public design the MLS club’s third kit.

Giving fans such a say in the uniform design process is rare across sports, but both the Galaxy and its corporate partners are already drawing benefits from the unique effort.

L.A.’s uniform design studio on Facebook
In the first week since the program’s launch, there were more than 4,000 kit submissions and 12,977 unique visits to the design page. The Galaxy’s Facebook site received an additional 10,000 “likes.” In addition, one-quarter of the visitors to the site have been from outside the United States, so the initiative is striking a chord internationally, as well.

“We pride ourselves on being a leader at MLS in social media,” said Galaxy vice president and former player Chris Klein, citing the club’s MLS-best 396,000 Facebook fans and 88,000 Twitter followers. “This appears to be taking us to an even higher level.”

Fans have until June 1 to create a complete Galaxy uniform that would be worn at select games in 2013 and 2014, including jersey, shorts and socks. They also must create a personal message for the kit’s custom jock tag. The winner will be announced Aug. 1 after fans vote on their favorite among five finalists.

The idea for the program came from Andrea Bailey, a sponsorship executive with AEG Global Partnerships. After her idea received the green light, the social media department of AEG Sports, the Galaxy’s owner, developed it for nine months. The Facebook page was built by Sanborn Media Factory, a New York-based agency.

The result is added value for Adidas, the team’s apparel partner, and Herbalife, the sponsor on the Galaxy’s jersey. The companies’ logos are on every blank jersey the fans attempt to design.

“We’re a direct-sales company with more than 2 million distributors,” said Brian McKinley, a senior director at Herbalife, the global nutrition company that renewed its partnership with the Galaxy for 10 years before the MLS season. “The more they’re connected, the better it is for us. We’re seeing a lot of engagement within the Herbalife community because of the contest.”

Although artistic ability is important, the Galaxy’s promotion is easy to use. The offering provides contestants with 16 jersey touch points and 32 color schemes from which to choose. By giving fans plenty of options, the Facebook program has been successful in keeping fans on the site. In the first week, the average user stayed on the site for 8 minutes and 13 seconds, far longer than the amount of time Galaxy fans typically spend on team pages, according to the club.

Los Angeles is the first MLS club to offer a Facebook-based kit design opportunity to fans.

“We always encourage our clubs to be creative when it comes to the design of their kits,” said Maribeth Towers, MLS senior vice president of consumer products. “The Galaxy brand is known worldwide, so this is the chance of a lifetime for an L.A. or MLS fan to win this contest.”

Finalists will be selected by a panel of Galaxy, Herbalife and Adidas executives June 8. Fans connected as friends on Facebook are able to see each other’s designs.

The winner will receive a trip for two next July to see the Galaxy play in the uniform, and will get the designed jersey signed by the entire team. The Galaxy gets growth in its fan base and database.

“Any time a fan signs on to our social media outlets, it’s great for us,” Klein said. “It’s the best way to get them our latest team news and ticketing messages. We want to speak with our fans regularly, and this kit contest has really connected us with them.”
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