Scott Hutchison

A Winning Approach from MLS Cup

Like many of you, I’m still buzzing from Sunday’s MLS Cup Final.

Full disclosure, I’m a bit of a Timbers fan. So much so, I’m posting this blog while streaming Tuesday’s championship parade coverage from Portland’s FOX 12.

The fact that I support a MLS Club from the Rose City, but live in the Windy City, has always made me dependent on digital access and social conversation. I read articles from The Oregonian sports page, listen to podcasts from 750 The Game, joined a Facebook Group for fans in the Heartland and connect to local influencers through Twitter.

On top of all this, I tend to engage with brands that are doing a good job supporting my Club. Brands may offer Club goodies, they may offer Club access, they may offer Club content or they may just offer one more Club connection point.

From the broadest of perspectives, I most admire brands who use their Club and/or League partnerships to infuse a bit of fun into their digital and social outputs. As we’ve all read, the knock-on effect of humanizing a brand through the passion point of sports has an ability to truly win hearts and minds.

The Portland Timbers’ partners at Alaska Airlines upped interaction with their corporate Twitter handle @AlaskaAir by 760% in the week around MLS Cup (obviously benefitting by being aligned with the eventual winner).

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.09.02 AM

Beyond my Club, you could just look across the field – or, the corporate battlefield – and see some similarly well-executed work from the Columbus Crew’s partners at Barbasol. In this case, the brand saw a 1,510% interaction lift on their corporate Twitter handle @BarbasolShave. I really enjoyed their playful tone throughout the week.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.09.59 AM

You also have to appreciate the brand’s willingness to congratulate their Club’s opponents while working Portland’s Nat Borchers into their social strategy (a player Barbasol doesn’t currently have a relationship with, but who soccer fans know across the country for his epic beard).

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.09.52 AM

Broadening this to League partners, I applaud the work by Continental Tires. The brand turned their account over to Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, armed him with a camera then leveraged his voice to deliver the sights and sounds for fans not lucky enough to be at Mapfre Stadium. Content was chaptered on Twitter, but was highlighted by a branded Periscope feed that showed up-close player intros, team warm-ups, tailgating with Portland and Columbus supporters and much more.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 12.52.18 PM

These examples aside, my overall assessment from MLS Cup 2015 is one of missed opportunity, with a majority of League and Club partners sitting on the sidelines across social and digital media.

Most all utilized in-stadium contractual assets, many set aside broadcast media dollars and some elected to activate onsite (take a look inside this activity here), and that’s a good thing when you recognize just how loyal* MLS fans are to brands who support their game.

Untitled copy

But surprisingly, and frustratingly, very few brands worked MLS content into their emerging media strategies. Side note…can we even call digital and social channels “emerging media” anymore

This is an absolute miss when you realize just how active MLS fans are in these channels. The 2015 edition of our annual Soccer Insights Survey explored links between fans, digital engagement and brand activity. Highlights specific to “hardcore MLS fans” included:

  • 74% use Facebook at least once a day
  • 45% use Twitter at least once a day
  • 30% use Snapchat at least once a day
  • 28% have clicked on a brand’s display ads 3+ times in the past 3 months
  • 48% have watched a sponsored brand video 3+ times in the past 3 months
  • 33% have entered a brand’s sweepstakes 3+ times in the past 3 months

So for those brands who chose to engage fans through social and digital channels, I hope your results were as meaningful and rewarding off the field as it was for me to watch my Timbers lift the Cup on it.

For those who sat this one out, I hope 2016 brings a fresh interest in making these critical fan connections. I may just know an agency that can help ensure it’s done to maximum effect.


*chart c/o Turnkey Sports and Sports Business Journal, 2015

Categories: Featured, Major League Soccer, Soccer Marketing, Social Media, Sponsorship, Thought Leadership