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Volume 21 No. 1
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D.C. United uses LivingSocial to offer experiences that may deliver new fans

D.C. United is already more than two months into the MLS regular season, but another training camp opened last week. It was led by United players Chris Pontius, Robbie Russell, Nick DeLeon and Joe Willis for several dozen fans of the team, along with a few prospective customers looking for an intense workout or unique experience — for a $150 cost.

The one-day camp was the latest example of D.C. United’s partnership with LivingSocial, the Washington, D.C.-based social commerce provider. D.C. United, like a few other MLS franchises, has offered a range of deals through LivingSocial. An April 7 promotion for a game against Seattle at RFK Stadium sold 3,685 vouchers, ranging from $17 sideline seats to $131 packages that included a sideline pass to watch warm-ups, a midfield seat for the game and a post-match event. Offering options that included tickets, a tailgate party and six-pack cooler at price points ranging from $17 to $65, the team sold 2,888 vouchers for its May 16 game against Colorado.

For D.C. United, having LivingSocial as its official social commerce provider is a way to reach local consumers looking for entertainment deals but who are not necessarily soccer fans or even traditional sports fans. Both sides make money via a split on the revenue generated from every voucher sold.

In addition to reaching LivingSocial’s deep customer base, D.C. United’s partnership includes promotional and advertising elements for LivingSocial, such as signs and digital media assets.

In the second season of its partnership with LivingSocial, D.C. United has learned the most effective practice is the offering of — as LivingSocial brands them — “adventures.”

“We have great synergy with Living Social because we want to expose people to our team that maybe haven’t been to games yet,” said Dawn Ridley, D.C. United’s vice president of business development. “We want to go beyond straight ticket deals. By offering them an experience, like a training camp or a sideline pass, maybe someone going to their first game becomes a fan for life.”

LivingSocial shares D.C. United’s goals.

“Our programs are effective because we know a lot of our customers are going to an MLS game for the first time and then they’re buying seats in the stands for many more,” said Brendan Lewis, director of corporate communications for LivingSocial. “That’s one of our premises: to provide something new. If they become D.C. United fans, whether they purchase tickets through LivingSocial again or not, we’ve been successful.”

LivingSocial and Groupon are the industry leaders in the daily deal provider category. Groupon has a partnership in Washington with Monumental Sports, which owns the Wizards, Capitals, Mystics and Verizon Center. LivingSocial has worked with teams in leagues outside MLS, including the Denver Broncos and Charlotte Bobcats.

MLS teams, including Seattle, the New York Red Bulls and the Los Angeles Galaxy, have found success in partnerships with LivingSocial. For a July 24 friendly with EPL’s Tottenham Hotspur, the Galaxy is offering two packages: for $179, fans get a ticket, access to Tottenham’s “closed” practice two days earlier and a commemorative scarf; a VIP deal for $499 comes with an additional meet-and-greet with the Spurs’ players.

The Galaxy believes premium packages are the best activations with LivingSocial.

“We want to maintain the value of season tickets, so more things we do with LivingSocial will include experiences and price points that go beyond a basic ticket deal,” said Kelly Cheeseman, senior vice president of ticket sales and service for AEG Sports, the Galaxy’s majority owner.