Continuing our Valentine’s Day-themed posts, let’s travel back in time to 2015 and reminisce about D.C. United’s Swipe Right Night – a night celebrating soccer and… Tinder swiping! As someone who may or may not be familiar with the app who lauded the game promotion when it was announced, I wanted to take a look back at what makes it a novel concept, particularly for a team and league who thrive on support from Millennials.
Of course D.C. United wasn’t the first to dip their toes into matchmaking. The NBA’s Atlanta Hawks were first-to-market with a Tinder promotion in 2015 (and even had one couple end up getting married in 2018). The Los Angeles Clippers have also since signed a jersey patch sponsorship with competing app Bumble, which includes several pieces of video content highlighting female employees, dating tips from players, and date play-by-play analysis.
Millennial targeting at its finest, right? The truth is the sports world is constantly changing and that’s just as true as it was in 2015 as it is in 2020. Team and leagues have to develop new and creative ways to attract consumers and fans in the around-the-clock fight to not only engage, but also compete for their entertainment dollars.
Find your Match at our Match!
— D.C. United (@dcunited) September 28, 2015
How did Swipe Right Night work?
Leading up to the game, D.C. United worked with Tinder to set up a radius in which app users could find and match with the team’s profile. Once matched, Tinder would send an automated message from D.C. United that provided users with a link for discounted tickets to the exclusive Swipe Right Night.
Once fans who purchased tickets via Tinder were at RFK Stadium they were prompted to reduce their Tinder radius to one mile so they could match with other users at the game in the Tinder District – a 27,000 sq. foot field-level party space. The aptly named Tinder District was open for 1.5 hours and featured live music, tailgate games, and perhaps most importantly an open bar for some liquid courage. The team also run a special in-game promotion, Match of the Match, where people who matched were encouraged to share a photo on social media. One couple was selected and got to enjoy a field-side dinner in front 20,000 onlooking fans. No pressure!
Making valuable connections to your brand… and each other
The reason a Tinder or Bumble-themed night can work for a team is because it combines two important elements. Tinder is allowed to illustrate the thing they do best – connecting people – and a team can illustrate what they do best – providing an enjoyable social experience. The merging of the two helps create a fun experience that allows the club, in this case D.C. United, the ability to make connections with a young and engaged audience which undoubtedly contains transient soccer fans.
Using the app as a vehicle to promote the event and sell tickets is important outside-the-box thinking because a social strategy is no longer unique. An interaction on Tinder can feel much more personalized and relatable than a tweet, for example. While the example in the video below pertains to the Hawks’ and their promotion, an additional bonus is the earned media opportunity around a fun and different promotion.
The next iteration of Swipe Right Night?
Beyond the practical application of a dating app night helping millennials look for love, there’s a much more valuable application. The invisible radius users can set is no different than a geofence marketers and advertisers can set up for location-based paid media targeting, for example. If you’re Tinder or D.C. United (or any other team) what better way to get your core Millennial audience into one location and up-sell them on your brand or the brand of your marketing partners.
As esports continues to grow and show tangible value to teams, could we see a Discord or Twitch-themed event around eMLS targeting the highly sought Gen Z audience? It’s certainly possible, as droves of teens and pre-teens live on those platforms. Who needs an app for love when you have an app to find your next PlayStation or Xbox Live competition, right?!