Minnesota United CEO Talks Success Of Allianz Field's First Year
Minnesota United took home 4 MLS awards, the most of any club, following the '19 season, a year which saw the team debut Allianz Field, sell out every home match and announce new "first-team" sponsorship deals with Pepsi and Blue Cross + Blue Shield of Minnesota, among others. The MLS named United the Corporate Partnerships Team of the Year and Senior VP/Corporate Partnership Sales & Activation Katie Mattis the league's Corporate Partnerships Exec of the Year. "Everything is pointing north at this point," United CEO Chris Wright said. Below are excerpts from a recent conversation with Wright about the season, Minnesota's increasingly-cluttered sports market and tapping into a growing season ticket waiting list. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
On opening Allianz Field: When you go through what we've done and opened a new stadium on the timeline that we did, and you do it as relatively successful as we did, people begin to understand how much bigger of a project we're involved with here. It's something that I try to both educate our staff and anybody that will listen to me and our supporters on how big this thing can be in Minnesota. When people, whether it's staff, supporters, fans or corporate partners, begin to embrace that, it really truly can be remarkable.
On leveraging the new venue: Allianz Field was an opportunity for us to have the club take its place in the Twin Cities market, which is very cluttered. There is every league inside of this market. Competition is very intense, for share of voice, for fans, for supporters, for corporate partnerships, for all the business indicators that would prove out that you're being successful. On top of that, we have a Big Ten school right smack dab in the middle of downtown Minneapolis, who happen to be doing well. Competition in this marketplace is strong, so we felt we really truly needed to take advantage of the opening of our stadium.
On building a ticket sales pipeline: A lot of market research told us, "If you can get to 14,500 season ticket holders, you would have the opportunity to sell out every time." Not only did we do that, we surpassed 14,500 by building something called the preserve, which is our waitlist. We had in the end over 6,000 people on the preserve. When it comes to marketing single game tickets, when you have 6,000 people on a waitlist getting into the season ticket base, then you market to the preserve first. We did very well with that. This year we renewed our season ticket base at 94.6%. That left under 400 season tickets to sell. We increased our base to 15,000. So, we had about 900 new season tickets to sell. We sold them to the preserve in three and a half days.
On growth in corporate sponsorships: I've been here for two years. One of the very first things I felt I needed to do was change the way we were approaching sponsorships in the marketplace. I brought in Katie Mattis. She's done a remarkable job in a lot of different ways. She's incredibly creative, incredibly professional. She's developed our staff, and in the end, we're probably going to be the fourth or fifth highest producer in that area in the league.
On other points of differentiation in a competitive sports market: Our market has 251 languages. A very diverse market. We want to bring them to a stadium that's diverse, inclusive, safe, it embraces countries from around the world. When you take all of the different companies in our market who are maybe being presented with a lot of other opportunities from a lot of other great competitive teams, it's a fascinating story to tell. When you layer on top of that the demographics and who our followers are, 60% of them are millennials, not only are we diverse, we're very young. Inside of that very young base, we have almost 40% women.