SBJ/March 18-24, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

MLS checks in with Foursquare, extends partnership with site

Major League Soccer has signed a one-year deal with Foursquare, the location-based social networking site, for the 2013 season.

Financial details were not disclosed, but Chris Schlosser, vice president of MLS Digital, called the deal an expansion of a partnership the league had with Foursquare last season. Schlosser said MLS received 4 million impressions via Foursquare and that partnership during the 2012 season.

Teams use Foursquare to target fans with promotions.
“That’s a strong number that we’d love to reach again and strive to surpass,” Schlosser said. “We love Foursquare’s innovation. Our partnership allows us to leverage their check-in functionality with our very tech-savvy fan base and to offer special deals to fans in our stadiums.”

J. Crowley, director of media partnerships for Foursquare (and younger brother of Foursquare CEO and co-founder Dennis Crowley) called the deal a “promotional agreement.” He added that Foursquare’s partnership with MLS is the company’s largest sports deal. It also has arrangements with teams in the NFL and NHL and with the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, among other sports entities.

Foursquare benefits from the MLS partnership from the promotion it receives for its product online, in social media, on local and national TV broadcasts, and via in-stadium announcements. Foursquare does not receive a cut of any revenue derived from sales spurred by the league’s use of the platform to offer discounts to fans. For example, during this month’s opening weeks of the 2013 MLS season, fans who connected to Foursquare on their mobile devices received a welcome message when checking in, along with an offer for $10 off the $59.99 subscription price for MLS Live, which will stream up to 230 matches this season on computers and mobile devices.

Fans arriving at stadiums similarly could be directed to discount offers at merchandise and concession stands. Portland fans, for example, attending the Timbers’ first two home matches could “unlock” an offer on Foursquare for 20 percent off merchandise at the Jeld-Wen Field team store.

“That’s a big part of our value proposition to teams,” Crowley said. “The promos are unlocked by fans in the stadium and near the point of sale. Unlike a generic ad that everybody sees, these offers feel earned.”

After Foursquare partnered with MLS last season, it was contacted by Manchester City and Fulham of the English Premier League and created deals with those clubs, Crowley said.

The MLS-Foursquare deal has additional club-level extensions. Each club has created pocket guides for fans on Foursquare, suggesting places to visit in and around the stadium, including bars and restaurants. And as a new element compared to last year’s partnership, clubs can include their own sponsors for co-branded offers via Foursquare.

The deal is not exclusive in that regard, though. MLS clubs can still work in other social media platforms like Facebook, or work with daily deal companies such as Living Social.

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