- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On March 9, 2009
- 12 Comments
- Drew Carey, Geoff Reid, Seattle Sounders FC
Editors note: This is the first post by new WVH contributor Geoff Reid. Geoff will now be writing columns and other bits of news. Today he writes about the success of the new MLS franchise in Seattle.
Seattle Sounders FC havenít even kicked a ball yet, at least not officially. Yet they can already be classed as a success story off the pitch. On the pitch is something completely different, which we will find out in the coming months starting next week. There is already a rivalry brewing with the defending champion Columbus Crew and we all know that it stems from former Crew manager Sigi Schmid ending his tenure in Ohio and swapping it for the Pacific northwest.
We will soon see how good the Sounders are on the pitch, however, off the pitch they have done everything right up to this point. Everyone in the league should take notice of whatís been done from a business side including future expansion teams. I live almost a stone throw away from where the new club in Philadelphia (Chester, PA to be exact), and they havenít done a lot wrong so far but they can also learn from Seattle.
So what has the Sounders done so far thatís made them so successful up to this point?
- The strong ownership group. One of the blueprints that MLS commissioner Don Garber has set in stone since he took the job from Doug Logan in 1999. The combination of a Hollywood film producer, a co-founder of a billion dollar corporation like Microsoft, a comedian/game show host/super fan, and lastly the previous USL Sounders owner who knows the game in the local area and whoís input will be vital has the recipe for a good foundation.
- The relationship with the Seahawks. A word of advice to teams that still share stadiums with NFL clubs, this is how you do it. I know right now there arenít many teams that do this anymore (Revolution, Red Bulls and the Dynamo share with the University of Houston) and eventually all clubs will play in their own specifically built stadiums. However, it makes me wonder why the MetroStars and now the Red Bulls didnít create this sort of a relationship with the New York Giants to begin with? The Seahawks treat the Sounders as family and sharing offices and training facilities proves that. The fact that no NFL lines will be on the pitch at Quest Field during Sounders games says a lot. It also makes me think since the Revolution and Patriots are both owned by the same people, so why canít they do the same thing and get rid of the NFL lines during Revs games at Gillette Stadium?
- The 20,000+ season ticket holders. This is the most amazing statistic of all. The fact that the club had to expand the capacity from 24,500 to 27,000+ is fantastic. How have the Sounders managed to do this? Several reasons really. Firstly Drew Careyís idea that came all the way from Catalonia in creating the Seattle FC Alliance where fans can vote on a general manager once every four years. What a way to separate yourselves from the rest of the league and be unique. Careyís other idea to have a marching band at home games is also unique in itself. Right there he created traditions that are American and international. Also the Sounders name has meaning in the area since the 1970ís just as the Whitecaps, Timbers and Earthquakes do in Vancouver, Portland and San Jose respectively.
- The marketing campaigns have been quite brilliant. Adding Chelsea into the season ticket package was fantastic, however, the one thing that stood out for me was the whole scarf idea. Often word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Lets also not forget the reality TV show where the winner had the chance to earn a roster spot. This is not uncommon for teams in all sports to do this, but it never gets old.
- Securing shirt sponsorship. This was fantastic not only because XBOX 360 is a well known brand, but the deal itself being $20m over four years. Certainly in these tough economic times securing any sponsorship would be a success, let alone one this big.
This has all happened before first kick which is astonishing. A few MLS originals should look at whatís been done in Seattle and in their respective ways start afresh with new ideas. I look at the New York Red Bulls currently and Iím hoping with their great end of season run last year maybe they can finally get some credibility with Red Bull Arena opening next year (which I fully believe will instantly help them draw better crowds).
I also look at FC Dallas who have their own stadium already. Find someway to get fans more involved with the team which will generate enthusiasm which will lead to a bigger, more loyal and passionate fan base. The Dynamo donít have the pleasure of their own stadium and they still draw well.
Then I look at the Colorado Rapids and it is pleasing to see they were one of the 10 clubs to increase in ticket sales demand for this season. They have a beautiful stadium, I just wish the team would be just as good and in return get the average attendance up.
I am certainly not a Sounders fan. I am not a fan of any particular team in MLS, just a fan of the game in general and therefore support the league 100 percent. What the Sounders have done is understand their local demographics. Toronto did the same when they entered the league. Now other teams have done the same in their respective areas. Real Salt Lake has done tremendous off the pitch for a club that only made the playoffs for the first time last season. DC United, Chicago, Houston and San Jose have built up solid fan bases by creating winning traditions respectively and now we should see Columbus do the same.
Now itís up to the Sounders to do the business on the pitch.