Monthly Archives: December 2011

Soccer’s Core Messaging Needs Addressing

Let’s just clarify that people aren’t very fond of politicians. However there is much that soccer can learn from their approach to communications which can easily be replicated in our quest to grow the game nationwide.

How you may ask? Well it lies in a subject we touched on the previous article Nothing can help me care about soccer – Oh Really?’ which touched on the need for the sport (and its fans) to rethink its core messaging.

‘It’s the biggest sport in the world’ is not a strong rebuttal when confronted by people that don’t like/have not grown up with the game. In fact it is a pre-cursor to a losing argument rather than the opportunity to sell all the great things the sport has to offer.

Using political messaging and one of the most widely known books on the subject as the example (Don’t Think of an Elephant! By George Lakoff) you can see a model of how one side thinks and an explanation of why they are able to consistently win political debates, even before the debates begin.

His objective is to show the other side of the spectrum how to take back control of the debate and while the book is focused on politics, it can also be read as a broader introduction to critical thinking, useful wherever you might be on the political spectrum or in this case, the sporting divide.

There are hundreds of websites and forum posts about how much soccer sucks. We know this is not the case but we know we are on the back foot in our quest to prove it.

They say the worst kinds of politics are sporting politics so maybe we aren’t so different after all. Taking a leaf out of the Obama campaign manual might be what is needed to create a new movement for fans to help soccer reach its potential.

To summarize, it is important that we have this discussion on messaging and marketing now if we are serious about growing the game for the future. Soccer Support is looking to facilitate such a discussion when we launch in 2012. We just hope you will join us at the table.

In the meantime if you’re interested to find out what it is we are planning please email info@soccersupport.us for more information.

GROWING SOCCER IS THE U.S. – TIME TO CAPTURE THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF OUR FANS

Has anyone ever realized that the soccer’s biggest untapped resource is that of its fans? This is not a new niche market, it is an extensive network of fans, players, officials and administrators that equate to approximately 25 million people.

If we are looking at long term growth, MLS teams must forge stronger links with these key demographics and establish a genuine connection with the grassroots. We are not talking a token Twitter message, we are talking about unparalleled access for fans with their clubs and sporting heroes.

This is not just a marketing challenge –we are not selling a standardized product off the shelf – it’s much more complex than that. Creating emotional links will fans will enable soccer to entrench its presence within the community and establish formal linkages and developmental pathways with junior, intermediate and top tier competitions.

Interacting with the youth of today should also become soccer’s number one growth strategy. Creating ‘fans for life’ out of the ones that will drive the next generation of players, volunteers and fans is the single most important move in the sports quest to create a cultural shift in U.S. sporting culture.

We need to shift the focus from the top tier of the game to assist the top tier of the game. It’s slowly happening through the creation of original content for fans to engage with – we only have to see the stats to know that this works. In July alone, the MLSsoccer.com staff posted close to 700 original stories, a 33 percent increase from July 2010. And in response to the content, the website recorded just over 3 million unique visitors. The flagship website, MLSsoccer.com, also increased its video production by 33% in July, and reached 1 million videos viewed, which doubled numbers from 2010 (source: Forbes.com)

This renewed focus will help improve the game through new and mutually beneficial connections with the grassroots of the game, and demonstrate the accountability of the MLS to its fundamental stakeholder – soccer participants.

Together we can #growthegame and with Soccer Support launching in 2012 we hope to be at the forefront of this movement as a genuine voice for the fans.

In the meantime if you’re interested to find out what we are about please email info@soccersupport.us for more information.

Soccer in the U.S. is Said to Have a Cultural Problem – So a Cultural Shift Might Unlock All the Answers

25 million people currently play soccer in the U.S. according to FIFA’s most recent ‘Big Count’, yet it still sits on the bleachers while the other more established sports share in all the spoils.

Saying soccer will never be big here in the U.S. is an acceptance that American culture will never change and we are happy with the current status quo.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the U.S. took pride in being the best in the world at almost everything it tried its hand at? Given this attitude, which I believe is the widely accepted viewpoint of its citizens; shouldn’t we embrace the challenge of the U.S. becoming the best soccer nation in the world? Or is it just too difficult because it might take a bit more time than we are usually accustomed to?

There is no doubt that America has an insatiable appetite for sport, so can soccer one day rank up there with those sports and be part of the countries national identity? The simple answer is yes but the more long winded version is how and how long will it take.

One of those answers may come in the form of a strong shift in the demographical make-up of the country itself. According to a report from The Brookings Institution, a Washington based nonprofit public policy organization, in the past decade alone racial and ethnic minorities have accounted for 83% of the USA’s growth. These statistics along with the fact that our population is predicted to hit 350 million by 2022 demonstrate that demographic forces are decidedly in favor of soccer’s eventual success.

Soccer has always been known as the one sport that can break down barriers of race, religion and the other social obstacles to participation, so if we can successfully manage this cultural shift, maybe this gradual demographic transformation is the sports future trump card.

So let’s embrace these changes and smash the perceptions that soccer is the leisurely past time of middle-class suburbanites and find new ways to permeate the game into our popular sporting culture. Soccer Support hopes to lead that charge and we can’t wait to launch in 2012!

In the meantime if you’re interested to find out what it is we are planning please email info@soccersupport.us for more information.

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Nothing can help me care about soccer – oh really?

“Nothing can help me care about soccer. Oh, ‘it’s the most popular sport in the world.’ Probably because it’s cheap to play. It costs a ball. Once every four years, America pretends to care about it. And yes, I call it ’soccer.’ Don’t correct me because I don’t care what they call it in other lands — I speak America. Sorry world, we already have football and it’s way better. It’s supposed to be played by 300 pound men eight seconds at a time, not five-foot, six-inch fairies lightly jogging for three hours, or however long your game is…buy a scoreboard! It’s hard for me to get into a sport that I mastered at the age of seven. Excuse me for not being able to get revved up for this corner kick that never works. Hooray! The game ends without a single goal”. Daniel Tosh.

He is one of America’s top comedians and if we were to be honest, has pretty much nailed how the game is perceived in the US. He is also factually correct…on one thing. Soccer is indeed the most popular sport in the world, and with 250 million players in over 200 countries, not even the most sarcastic undertones can deny this fact.

But here we are in America, the world’s sporting epicenter, seeing the sport trail behind NFL, MLB, the NBA and NHL. How is this so?

Firstly we need to accept that soccer isn’t the biggest sport in this country. This isn’t Europe or South America and it never will be. There, I said it. Someone had to. But so what if the sport hasn’t fully realized its potential – it’s about acknowledging there is potential there and finding the ways to achieve it. Trust us, this won’t happen overnight; neither will it happen at all if the attitude taken by soccer fans is the one that Daniel Tosh mocked so openly on his TV show.

What we need is to rally around some achievable goals, goals that use the untapped resource that is our fans, players, armchair pundits and soccer moms in such a way, in which they come together as one and help create a cultural change that will happen – not overnight – but in time. A movement, not unlike that seen in politics, where these individuals are organized to help drive the game at a grassroots level, improving the standard of players, the sustainability of our junior clubs and attracting new revenue streams for the MLS that (currently) only the ‘big four’ can dare to demand.

In the past 5 years, U.S. Soccer, especially the MLS, has continued to grow. Crowds and TV revenue has increased, the league has seen a strong period of expansion and genuine world class players have decided to join the country’s premier competition. This is progress but not the level our fans are crying out for.

With close to 25 million players in the country (and over 2.5 million supporters of the sport on Facebook alone), we theoretically have around 25 million potential ambassadors to take up the fight of growing the game into a serious domestic force. And we are sure there would be nothing more satisfying for FIFA than seeing the game explode here in the U.S.

So how can this be achieved we hear you ask? What we need is a unifying goal for everybody to get behind. One that inspires us. One that we can achieve together. This is about the sport we love and every one of us having the opportunity to help achieve these goals. We are happy to announce that these goals are close to being a reality and that change we all seek is just around the corner.

We hope this article has whetted your appetite for more and you spread this rallying call far and wide, because in early 2012 a line in the sand will be drawn and the ‘big four’ better take notice. Soccer is coming for you!

In the meantime if you’re interested to find out what it is we are planning please email info@soccersupport.us for more information.

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