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Volume 23 No. 13
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Art of the deal: Delta, Sounders unite ‘Fabric’ of community

Goalkeeper Stefan Frei and art students work on The Fabric of Sounders FC.
Seattle has become one of Delta Air Lines’ fastest-growing international hubs, and the airline carrier has increased its presence in the city in recent years as a result — including being one of Seattle Sounders FC’s largest partners. The partnership, which began in 2013, sees Delta serve as the club’s official airline and the presenting partner of its starting team. The “Fabric of Sounders FC” campaign is its latest activation around the club.

Who did the deal? The Sounders and Delta signed a five-year extension to its partnership in September 2015. This activation was a collaboration between Delta, the team and Delta’s agencies DKC (PR), MKG (experiential) and Octagon (sponsorship).

How did the discussions get started? Delta wanted to build an interactive fan program that leveraged its relationship
with the Sounders and engaged SkyMiles members in-market through participation. It was also an extension of its new brand campaign “You Can’t Stop Seattle,” which highlighted its growth in the West Coast hub and its relationships across the city. The idea for The Fabric of Sounders FC was developed to engage community members through a design project uniting community, art and sport, which would leverage several themed pieces of digital and social content, fan and team integrations, employee activations, and experiential elements — including the company’s first “Fan Flight” that saw it chartering a plane full of Sounders fans and alumni to take on the team’s biggest rival in Portland.

How did the activation work? Designed by Sounders goalkeeper and graphic artist Stefan Frei, the Fabric of Sounders FC canvas aimed to represent the team, fans and city coming together as a community. Throughout the 2016 season, the banner grew piece by piece, with six pieces being added by Sounders fans across Seattle through a variety of activations including at the Sounders training facility, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and during the Ultimate Fan Flight. The final 200-by-65-foot canvas was unveiled at CenturyLink Field by more than 150 people, including: Delta employees; community partners from The Boys & Girls Club, Lifelong End AIDS Walk, Seattle Children’s Hospital, USO and YMCA; and art students from Voyager Middle School prior to the club’s match against the Chicago Fire on Sept. 28.

Why was it unique? The activation cribbed elements of soccer’s extremely popular tifo displays, where fans raise a large banner or simultaneously hold up signs that form a large image before matches.

Why do we like it? The canvas not only looked great when it was revealed, it highlighted many key passion points for Sounders FC — pride, unity and the city itself, among others. It was also built out of the design of a player, allowed for fan input and cooperation, and was further promoted by one of the club’s most prominent sponsors, making for a highly visible campaign that lasted months. Seattle’s corporate partnerships group received Team of the Year honors at MLS’s 2016 club awards in large part because of this activation.

— Ian Thomas