Friday, August 01, 2008

From The Horse's Mouth: Marketing Beckham -- A Missed Opportunity

(photo by Alex Clark)

Unfortunately, I think MLS has fallen into the same marketing philosophy many businesses, big and small, fall into in regards to David Beckham ... make the big initial "grand opening" push and get the snowball running downhill, and once it starts rolling it will get bigger and bigger. When Beckham signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, they did a good job of getting the buzz out -- moving Beckham #23 jerseys and selling out stadiums across the country for his first visit.
But we're in Year 2 now, and the "smell of something new" is wearing off, which was painfully apparent by the completely empty third level of Giants Stadium on Saturday, July 19th, when the New York Red Bulls hosted the Galaxy (a match I, "The Horse," attended with my wife Carrie "The Mare" and our son Trevor "The Pony." Yes, we drove to the game in "The Stagecoach." Hey, what can I do? James Clark edits the site!)
Sure, 40,000 fans is a huge bump from the standard 15,000 the Red Bulls play in front of on a typical Saturday night, but this is David Beckham (oh yeah, and Landon Donovan). The optimist says, "that's a 25,000 fan bump", but  the smart businessman says "where are the additional 30,000 fans that were here last year?" That's almost a 40% drop in business and that's not good using anyone's math. MLS can argue they anticipated a bubble in Year 1 but with a 40% drop in Year 2, in my opinion, the potential of the Beckham/MLS era is being wasted. 
MLS will never be La Liga, the EPL or Serie A -- I don't suffer from those delusions -- but being a soccer fan who appreciates what Beckham brings to the field, I'm incredibly disappointed that the buzz is gone. Last week marked Beckham's first MLS All-Star appearance as a fit player ... did anyone outside the dedicated soccer community know that ???? 
Why didn't MLS partner Beckham with the "other stars" or the "future stars" of the league in a marketing campaign. (MLS, you can feel free to send me a small conceptual-development check!) Every day, the clock is running out on the Beckham coat-tails ... so, ride them!
Compare MLS with Apple Computers and imagine, for a minute, that Beckham's arrival was the launch of the first iPhone. How has MLS followed up on the launch? A few weeks ago, Steve Jobs launched the same iPhone he launched a year ago with a few design tweaks and some new features. People lined up around street blocks all over THE WORLD to pay $200 plus service fees to get one. 
Why? Because Apple understands that it's all about marketing. Unfortunately, MLS does not. Now, I'm off to get some oats and sugar cubes.
(All "equine" joking aside, Dave Holak runs a cutting-edge graphics and advertising company called make-it-pop. Check it out online; the guy knows what he's talking about! James Clark)