There’s two co-workers in my office who love soccer. “That’s cute,” I like to tell them and accuse them of being unpatriotic for not liking football or America’s pastime more. But that poses the question. What if you’re trying to market soccer in America? Hockey in Texas? The WBNA anywhere?
1. Educate People About the Game
Fans often don’t appreciate what they don’t understand, and while most of us play soccer when we’re younger (Our Dad’s just sign us up so they can stare at the soccer mom’s when our mom’s aren’t looking?) we often quit before high school and play the sports all our friends are playing.
Casual sports fans probably like wheeling bicycle kicks, headers, penalty kicks and other exciting shots, but could careless during the other hour and twenty minutes that ‘nothing is going on.’ It’s because they don’t understand the nuances of the game. If someone can’t tell the difference in Lionel Messi and Charlie Davies that means they ‘don’t get it.’
Not understanding the nuances of the game usually equates to not being able to appreciate anything aside from the goals. People in Michigan and Minnesota like hockey because they grew up playing it, but in Texas, they group up playing football. There’s no reason Texan’s should like hockey except that they haven’t been exposed to it the same way people from the north have.
Use time outs (maybe flops in soccer?) to explain basic rules, host online campaigns on the US Men’s soccer page showing good non-scoring plays (and explaining why they’re good.) If a fan understands what he’s watching he’s more prone to enjoying it.
2. Provide Access to the Personalities
The NBA is exceptional and marketing individual players so it’s probably no coincidence they’ve been the quickest league in adopting social media. Lewis wrote a great post about some of the things he’d do if he were still playing today to increase visibility.
Have players to post game interviews that are live on Ustream (instead of hours later on sports center or a sound byte in the news paper the next morning). Have players answer 2 questions each on a platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. Host tweet-ups with your athletes and fans that bought special packages, etc.
The bottom line is that if fans aren’t a huge fan of the sport it doesn’t mean that they won’t become a big fan of a particular player that resonates with them. Personally, I love the scrappy guy that doesn’t have Adrian Peterson or Carl Crawford’s tool set but finds a way to make plays, to win games, to orchestrate come backs on sheer heart and grit alone. If those guys are giving me access you can bet your ass I’m tuning in.
Often times make marketing out to be a lot harder than it has to be. Tell compelling stories, find compelling stories and then share them (or give your fans a way to share them for you.) It starts with education, people have to understand what they’re watching. But they also have to know why, why they should care. It’s the stories (and the personalities that make up those stories) that entice people to flip to that channel.
Sometimes people make that story easy. See: Usain Bolt. But other times the people doing the marketing (YOU!) have to dig a little deeper. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Oh, and who are we kidding, NOBODY can market the WBNA.
What do you think? How would you sell soccer in America? Hockey in Texas? Cricket in Canada?
Post inspired by Anita Lobo