How Columbus Crew markets Field, attracting more fans



The Crew are trying to sell the Field experience through their business partners, while trying to build a brand when some fans are reluctant to the club’s new image.

As Field’s July 3 opening nears, the Crew have said the new $ 313 million stadium will sell on its own. Field’s overall reception so far has been nothing but praise, with attendance figures higher than in previous seasons, although sales are lacking. Overall, business manager Steve Lyons is pleased with the progress the club has made in its first season at the new stadium.

But what now?

With Sunday’s game against the Chicago Fire being the last game of the first season at Field, how does the club plan to turn those who have known the stadium this year into season pass holders and how to reach potential fans who haven’t been to the stadium yet?

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Lyons said the team’s strategy is to connect the Field experience to the city and keep people coming back because of the fan experience. The more they come back, the more they will become fans and reliable fans who pay tickets, hopes the team.

“We knew that the stadium itself and the narrative it contained would spark everyone’s curiosity in a way that they would want to go down there,” he said. “And our job was to bring them back.… The thing is, once you open the new stadium, once you get through the first day, how you bring them back.”

The team prefers direct messaging to a mass audience

The average crew attendance at Field is 18,870, or 92.6% capacity. The only sold-out sale this season was the opening. Attendance also reflects the tickets distributed, not necessarily the number of people actually present. Lyons said the “representation rate” of over 87% is high compared to the rest of Major League Soccer.

One factor behind the lack of sold-out sales could be a six-game losing streak in the middle of the summer that affected the crew’s chances of making the playoffs. in the last matches of the season. Another factor might be less focused on match ticket promotions than in previous years.

In 2019, the Crew ran advertisements on a regular basis urging people to get tickets to the next home game during half-time in English Premier League games. These no longer exist. According to Facebook’s ad library, the Crew didn’t start advertising for a single game on the platform until before the Sept. 25 game against Montreal, nearly three months after the stadium opened. There have been more paid advertisements for tickets to a game over the past month.

Lyons said the team had been posting messages for single match tickets through their own social channels, but mainly focused on messaging directly to business partners to bring their employees to matches, in the hope that those employees then spread the word to their loved ones. . Lyons said reaching people who don’t see these posts through social media or through their employers is still a work in progress.

“We got a great response from our corporate support, then direct messages to their employee base who then relay messages to their friends and family,” he said.

The club claim to have obtained more than 1,000 new deposits for season tickets in 2022. The club did not disclose the percentage of members with 2021 season tickets renewed for 2022.

The team tried to get more people into the stadium through non-traditional events, such as hosting the Pelotonia Opening Ceremony and bringing groups to the stadium on non-match days . They also used the new NCAA name, picture and likeness rule to have some popular Ohio State soccer players with many social media followers to make appearances in and around. of the club’s “college night” on October 27 against Orlando.

Lyon said the club sees everyone in columbus, and around the world, as potential fans they want to see experience “the brand of crew football”. But, says Lyon, the club needs to reach more people in this market first, and hosting international events such as the Campeones Cup and the United States Men’s National Team qualifying for the World Cup helps to attract fans that the Crew can target.

For now, the post has to do with the Field fan experience and environment, as the team believes a high quality experience will resonate with more people than telling a story on the ground. ‘team in a league that still plays second fiddle behind the other four major sports leagues.

“What we’re trying to do is have that experience, so whether they’re a football fan or just a casual fan – while football may not have been their goal – we’re going to develop this. interest in the sport over time, ”Lyons said. “But our goal is to gain them over the experience and keep them coming back.”

The Crew has partnered with a third-party company to reach out to people who haven’t been to Field. The team provided the agency various the lifestyle attributes and demographics of people who the crew believed would come to a game. The agency then goes through the Facebook profiles to create a database, which is referenced with the crew’s already built database, so that the two lists of potential ticket holders receive different messages about the stadium and the team.

The club is also focusing on “smart TV” ads, which can be specifically designed for people who broadcast football games in the state of Ohio or football through ESPN + or Hulu.

James Kahler, a professor at Ohio University who was senior vice president of sales and marketing with the Cleveland Cavaliers when they moved from Canton to a downtown arena in 1994, agree with the team’s approach of showcasing the experience and finding ways to bring people into the stadium for non-traditional events, in the hope that they will then buy tickets.

Kahler also said the crew have the opportunity to raise prices and adjust each year with a new stadium.

“If you spend $ 75 at an Ohio State game and you have a nosebleed, and you spend $ 75 (at a Crew game) and you’re around, you’re going to go out and compare those two experiences, “he said.” I think they’re doing it well. ”

The crew did not share subscription numbers, but Lyons said that from 2019 to 2021, the subscription member base grew by 45%. The club have announced sold-out sales for all premium sections and the supporters section of Nordecke for 2021. According to fans who have purchased season tickets, the Crew have increased season ticket prices for 2022 by a just under 5% overall. Some fans already thought this season’s prices were too high.

If the Crew had a better 2021 and made it to the playoffs, more people would likely deposit deposits and buy season tickets.

Increased crew visibility

In terms of creating greater visibility for the club, the Crew pitched their new gray uniform as being more wearable than the traditional yellow kit. But these jerseys have not been available since June. Lyons said supply chain issues across the country were the main cause of this, and this affected all MLS teams.

The Crew also has a problem in that a large segment of the fan base refuses to adopt the new logo which was rolled out and changed in the spring. While some fans have warmed up, many have an intense indifference or dislike for it.

When asked if it is difficult to create a brand identity when the club’s most ardent supporters do not embrace the logo, Lyons said he didn’t think the logo was a problem.

“We understand there is a certain core of fans who are still getting used to the new look, the new identity, but overall I think it’s adopted,” he said. “People are starting to look at it very differently and connect with it.”

Another challenge the crew understands is that there is a need to educate large sections of Columbus about the season and the games, versus the fans who implicitly know when the Blue Jackets and Ohio State play. How they do it is something they are working on.

There could be an argument that the Crew wasted precious time by not using a mass communication strategy to attract as many people as possible for the first season, maximizing what is collectively known as “the effect.” honeymoon ”for new stadiums.

But the Crew is betting on targeting casual sports fans who aren’t as interested in football but who would come to experience a new stadium. Then, as player talent for the Crew and MLS improves over time, the game may sell out.

“Part of the job that we need to continue to do as a club is to make our players known to our fans,” Lyons said. “This is a central focus of our marketing as we are better known within certain segments of our fan population. Players are absolutely the primary product that helps fuel that experience.

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