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MARKETING

Turning Customers into Fans
 

Major League Soccer is taking off in the U.S. Here are three reasons why the league is succeeding and what you can learn from it.

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I recently traveled to Kansas City, Kansas to attend the Major League Soccer All-Star Game. Major League Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports leagues in America today. One big reason? It's putting the patron first. Since the league is a client, I'm admittedly biased. But as I sat in the Sporting Park soccer stadium in Kansas City, three key takeaways jumped out at me that could be applied to other brands that provide experiences to their customers.

Invest in your fans
Major League Soccer has a keen understanding that the environment of the experience is just as important as the experience itself, if not moreso. Sporting Kansas City, a professional soccer club, recently invested in a new stadium designed specifically for soccer. It includes a variety of features that appeal to soccer fans, including free Wi-Fi and other high tech goodies. Most importantly, the stadium layout makes the experience both intimate and exciting. As Adam Beal, one of our agency's creative strategists and a fan of MLS said, "The environment defines the experience and in soccer, the experience is inclusive." How does environment define your brand's experience?

Embrace your competition
In any industry, it's easy to put up walls and become overly protective by blocking out direct and indirect competitive forces. Major League Soccer wisely doesn't embrace this strategy. Instead, it invites other leagues to participate and play in games. For example, the recent All-Star Game pitted the best of the MLS players against a top rated Italian team, AS Roma. How often do you see cross pollination of leagues in professional sports? Not often. MLS actively looks for ways to elevate the game of soccer in North America and it's clear their strategy is working. How well does your brand play with other experiential brands? If your patrons' experience can be improved by being more inclusive, you should certainly consider it, despite whatever worries may be hard-wired into your organization.

Remember what makes you great
The week surrounding the All-Star game was full of star-studded appearances (who doesn't love a performance by Macklemore?) and some fun viral video fun, just as you would expect from any major sporting event. The difference? Come game day, the focus was all about the match, with some quick pre-game theatrics and modest half-time festivities thrown in. If the roar of the crowd is louder for the half-time show than the main event, you have a big problem on your hands. What part of your experience makes your patrons roar in excitement? Look closely: If you're not focused on keeping the core of what you do great, you could lose sight of it more quickly than you'd think.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Aug 13, 2013

DAMIAN BAZADONA is the founder of Situation Interactive, a digital marketing agency spotlighting see-it-to-believe-it experiences for the top brands in theater, arts, travel, tourism, film, television and sports.
@situation




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