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Do Facebook ‘Likes’ Correlate to Game Attendance in the MLS?

Do you know what time of year it is? Major League Soccer Time! I know it is supposed to be called ‘futbol’ , but since I’m referring to the MLS, for this article I will just refer to it as ‘soccer.’

Social media chatter is all the rage.  Every team you can think of has a presence on this platform in some form.  There are no templates to follow, and each team is looking to each other for answers and ideas.

Soccer, the most popular sport in the world with over 3.5 billion fans, is most typically known for its tailgate parties, in-game chants, and post game celebrations. It’s more than just supporting a team; for some it’s a way of life.  It seemed leagues, such as English Premier League, had captured not only their local markets, but worldwide too. Already known for their grassroots efforts, how could the MLS increase attendance and market share in their own market?

As an organization, you can start to ponder the following questions looking for analytics and tangible items to compare.

Are the teams utilizing Facebook to its max capacity? Is it enough just to post updates?  Do the results of social media warrant more or less time spent?  How does Facebook affect game attendance, merchandise sales, and sponsorship opportunities? And what I’m looking at today…Do Facebook ‘Likes’ correlate to increased game attendance in the MLS?

The sport of soccer is naturally very social; therefore social media seems like the perfect fit.  And in 2010, the MLS rolled out new team websites that reflected this idea with a noticeable increase in engagement towards social media.  Some of the team websites encourage “likes” on Facebook, while others push for “followers” on Twitter.

Social media is still a communication channel for MLS that allows for each sport organization to have a greater communication strategy to their fans.  In essence, it can act as an extension of their website to engage with fans on a deeper level. The soccer blogs already existed, so the fans were already online, however the teams themselves had no control of content. Social media can now provide greater access for MLS and soccer fans to connect building a solid fan supporter with official team approved content.

Let’s explore the numbers…

Things to Know In Advance:

First, we do know that there are many other factors that affect Team Attendance numbers besides social media such as team performance and size of city.  Second, should we even be comparing the team’s facebook numbers to each other or to other professional sport organizations in a similar city? Third, social media is only a piece of the attendance puzzle.

First, a quick list of MLS League Soccer Stats: Team Attendance ranked for the 2009 season.

Now, a quick summary of Facebook ‘Likes’ from the MLS Fan pages (as of 2/28/2011) in order of the 2009 Team Attendance Ranking.

Seattle Sounders FC: 156,850

Los Angeles: 46,173

Toronto FC: 32,747

Real Salt Lake: 49,209

Houston: 22,181

Chivas USA: 7,841

DC United: 32,123

Columbus: 14,789

Colorado: 12,633

New York Red Bulls: 64,269

New England: 32,909

San Jose: 15,889

Kansas City:  26,709

FC Dallas: 16,807

The results!

There seem to be a few teams following a pattern, but definitely not all of them.

Facebook ‘Likes’ seem to enhance team attendance and as stated before, just a piece of the new media puzzle. As the importance of social media for sports organizations continues to grow and more resources are being pulled in this direction, it’s important to consider the research needed to determine the potential future opportunities.

Other Questions to Consider

  • What other elements are we missing?
  • How accurate are these numbers when compared to other leagues in general?
  • What can we learn when comparing these numbers to other professional sports organizations in a similar city?

Future Opportunity Questions to Consider

  • Can Facebook “Likes” be monetized for increased sponsorship value?
  • Where can we reduce marketing costs in our organization, to better streamline and communicate via social media?

Is Facebook grass roots enough for MLS? Does Facebook have the power to ‘mobilize the forces’ of MLS fans across the United States? If Facebook doesn’t help with enhancing attendance, where do you see the BIGGEST value?

Photo by IntangibleArts

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3 Responses to Do Facebook ‘Likes’ Correlate to Game Attendance in the MLS?

  1. dareleeing June 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    FB “likes” are good leads for MLS but in order to win those leads you must provide the considering fans enough valuable content to create a true win: season ticket super fans. Interactive and integrated social media along with communicating a glimpse of the live soccer experience that they won’t want to miss is key.

    Here’s a recent example of good content (video) shared viral via facebook, twitter, blogs, etc…

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