Some Crew Fans Critical Of Team's Marketing For Playoff Match Amid Relocation Threat
The Crew host Toronto FC tomorrow in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Finals, and some fans "have been critical of the front office’s marketing efforts" amid the team's possible relocation to Austin, according to Andrew Erickson of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Some fans have indicated that the marketing push is "not what it would be in a normal playoff run, one without the threat of relocation looming." The team, supporters and local businesses have "each explored marketing the match in their own ways," with the result being a "standing-room-only crowd." For fans, daily social media reminders to purchase tickets "served as a way to challenge the idea" that the Crew lack "broad-based community support in Columbus" amid talks to move the team to Austin. Crew President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane said that the club’s marketing plan "has been a blend of radio, television and digital, along with social media and some outdoor advertising." He added that the front office "has spent twice as much marketing Tuesday’s game as it would for a regular-season match." Local businesses have also "done their part to draw eyes to the Crew’s playoff run." Outdoor advertising company Lamar's Columbus office "donated five digital billboards at the start of the team’s playoff push with the same design it used" for the '15 playoffs. Lamar Columbus GM Chris Avondet said that the billboards' locations "vary depending on availability but will remain up throughout the playoffs" and that the donation "spurred an outdoor advertising purchase from the Crew’s front office" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 11/19).
BITTERSWEET SITUATION: In Toronto, Laura Armstrong noted about 1,000 Toronto FC fans will travel to Columbus for the game, and some will be "standing in solidarity" with the Crew fans amid the relocation threat. Members of TFC supporter group Kings in the North have been "wearing yellow and black ribbons on their scarves for weeks and have lent their support to a 'Save The Crew' movement." Kings in the North leader David Pinto said, "If they’re already moving the teams that founded them, that a few down years in a row and somebody might not be looking to move TFC" (TORONTO STAR, 11/19). In Columbus, Michael Arace wrote to Crew Chair Anthony Precourt, "Please, don’t show your face at Mapfre Stadium on Tuesday. night. ... You can move your team to Austin, Texas, but don’t set another foot on our state fairgrounds, not this month. Show some respect for your kill. ... Celebrate in Austin with MLS commissioner Don Garber, the 'Soccer Don.' You are his Fredo. You two are this close to pulling off a heist that should have been inconceivable" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 11/19). The AP's Paul Newberry wrote in the end, MLS "will be as big a loser in this affair as the good people of Columbus." For the league’s growing fan base, who "chant and sing and tell themselves that MLS is different than those other American leagues, this should be a clear sign that it’s not" (AP, 11/18).