Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Soccer Marketing 101 - You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch.... Nope

This marketing strategy is as solid as a house of (lotto) cards.
At first we didn't even think twice about Tuesday's news that Major League Soccer reached an agreement with a lotto ticket company to potential produce scratch-off games with MLS logos on them. Chalk it up to another weird marketing synergy that someone on high thinks is going to make the league a bunch of bucks. Like team-specific Snugglies.

Dumb idea, but in the end, harmless.

Then we got home, had a beer, and thought about it some more.

No. No. And one more, just for good measure... no.

How many Celtics fans
have been made by this card?
The move isn't just dumb on the face of it; it's wildly stupid on many levels. None more obvious than we're going to bet (knowing full well the irony in this statement) that this move will create exactly ZERO new fans. And probably make the league and MDI Entertainment, LLC shockingly little money.

Why then would MLS or MDI enter into this "excellent opportunity" according to Steve Saferin, President, Properties Group and Chief Creative Officer for Scientific Games (parent company of MDI)?

The lotto wants access to two prime demographics, youngins' and Hispanics.

"MLS fans index higher than any other major professional U.S. sport in two important target demographics for lotteries: 18- to 34-year olds (136 index) and Hispanics (222 index), according to 2010 data from Scarborough Research," says the press release we initially glossed over.

So MDI paid to get in the game and MLS played ball like a credit card company selling your address to anyone under the sun. The press release didn't say what the deal was; either up front money or based on a percentage of sales, but we have to believe it was the former. Or at least we hope it was because MLS will definitely end up on the "winners" side of this deal if that's the case. The only other thing they have to give up is a few tickets to games and some merchandise and their obligations are over. For MLS it's pretty much a win-win revenue wise. You take the sponsors and partnerships when you can. It's not like the league's TV numbers are knocking people's socks off (Although the 6.3 percent increase in game attendance so far this season is crazy impressive.)

If you're a MLS fans you're already heavily invested in tickets, jerseys, scarves, stadiums dogs and (we hope) beers for newbies. Unless you're someone with an itchy lotto finger (what's the percentage of you MLS fans?) is there loads of room in your soccer fandom budget for scratch offs JUST because your local team is on the shiny, scratch-able paper?

"Portland Timbers: Scratch, Chop, and Win!". We don't see it.

MLS has put together an impressive list of corporate sponsors of the league from beer to bread, but none of them put out logo'ed merchendise for the American fan. There's no "rave green" Sounders paint at Home Depot (not anymore at least), or ticket deals from American Airlines to MLS cities for away fans, or team crest VISA cards. Even most of their marketing cross-promotions are weak: two tickets to MLS Cup from Castrol, a coupon here or there if you click on the banner ad on, a commercial for MLS gear that's not actually available in most of their stores.

(MDI: Free cross-promo marketing idea... scratch off tickets for everyone that enters an MLS stadium one week. Each home team has their own ticket to give to incoming fans. "Toronto FC Mad Cash Dash"!?!?! Get 'em addicted and then watch them flood the convenience stores on the way home from the match.)

We've stopped and bought exactly one thing because of its association with MLS. That was a bottle of El Jimador tequila.Other that that the oil that goes in the FBMobile is not Castrol, but whatever's on special at Jiffy Lube, the airline we fly is not American Airlines, but whatever Travelocity gives us as the cheapest, most convenient flight, and we don't drink Aquafina we drink tap water. (A Movement with the word "free" in it, we're not breaking the bank in revenue.)

Does that make us bad American soccer fans? We hope not.

If you're going to have an inflatable at or
near a soccer stadium... at least combine the two.
This is a play for casuals then, right? The guy that walks in looking for a cool scratch ticket, finds the MLS one, is the next American soccer fan. That's the thinking? We hate to be the bringer of bad news, but, MDI.... that's not going to sell tickets. And MLS... that ain't making new fans.

This is beginning to sound like an idea from the bouncy-castle-at-games-marketing-department. MLS-branded lotto tickets will have less success in bringing new fans into the stadium than if one accident drove through the front doors of the place.

Oh wait. What's that in the third paragraph?

"As part of the agreement, MDI also has rights to make certain assets of the Mexican National Team available to lotteries for instant games. These assets include logos, trademarks and images of players in Mexican National Team uniforms."

That's what this whole deal was about? Getting El Tri? MLS was probably added on to the deal like a having your kid's significant other reluctantly invited to come along on the family road trip.

Why didn't you just say that and get it over with?

This is going to make you a bajillion dollars.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for covering this. Agreed that it's a wasted effort.

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