Portland’s Thriving Soccer Scene & Sports Marketing Strategies That your Team Can Use

Can you hear the chants? PTFC… PTFC… PTFC

Whether you’re a Portland Timbers or a Portland Thorns fan (or both, as many are!), you know that the soccer scene in Portland is kicking butt!

Soccer City USA is thriving and the reasons are many for its success, but at the core, strong sports brand marketing and sports marketing cohesion keep the small soccer market in a strong position. Two teams with two very active fan bases fuel the fire for the Rose City, driving engagement and cheering on two teams that have a combined 3 national championships in the past 6 years. The Portland Timbers nearly sell out every game, leading the league; while the Portland Thorns fans come out in droves, topping the next closest NWSL team’s attendance by 3X. Games played at Providence park are intimate, and that intimate setting is part of what makes the experience so great. The stadium is undergoing renovations to add 4,000 additional seats, which should help cut into the 10,000 person waiting list for Timbers season tickets.

The Sports Experience Matters

Let’s face it, the current millennial and next generation has ADD. Their attention is being pulled in every direction possible with new ideas, new gadgets, new sports teams, new Netflix shows, and new apps. How do you capture and keep the attention of millennials when you are a sports team that plays 90 minutes of a game and you may only see 1 goal or even worse, end in a 1 to 1 tie?! The experience for fans has to be one that can’t be ignored. The Rose City Riveters and the Timbers Army may seem like a rag-tag band of soccer fans, but in reality, it’s a carefully crafted and supported marketing arm for the two teams. The fan experience is driven by these two supporter organizations.

Let’s talk about Food & Beer

Providence Park has nailed it with their food and beverage options. Two Towns Thorns Cider celebrates the 2 national championships that the Thorns have achieved. The Axe Stand offers several local beer options that he been snobs of the Northwest enjoy. Trust me, I’m one of them, and when I see Steel Bridge Porter on tap, I’ll take two!

The rotating food cart options at Providence Park offer a unique way for local businesses to get exposure in front of an important and affluent market. A strong partnership with sponsoring milk and cheese maker Tillamook has yielded some exquisite dining options such as a twist on traditional mac and cheese. And who doesn’t crave a Tillamook ice cream bar at half time?

Gender Based Marketing in Soccer

The Thorns have found a way to capture the soccer market’s women and girls fans in a way that no other team has been able to do at such scale. Part of their success can be attributed to the openness and access to players that fans enjoy. At the end of a game, players are often seeing running through the Riveters fan section, while girl’s soccer teams line up to get autographs and photos with players at the end of every game. It’s apparent that the players recognize their place as a role model for aspiring girl soccer players.

2 of the 4 P’s of Marketing: Product & Price

When you were in high school, you probably learned about the 4 P’s of marketing Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. All 4 are critical for a successful marketing strategy – and if any are missing, you’ll miss opportunity to be successful. The Product & Price for the Portland soccer scene is on point – both teams offer flexible pricing packages and seating arrangements that fit the diversity of what a sports fan is looking for in their soccer experience. In Portland, as long as the product remains in demand, the higher prices for tickets can be sustained, even if the teams don’t take home a national championship trophy.

Social Engagement On the Digital Field

Portland Soccer fans have taken it upon themselves to create numerous Facebook groups – some private and many public – creating a unique eco system for fans chat and share their love of the sport. Building social media engagement for a sports team is important, but even more important is to understand what your goals are and what you are trying to achieve. Some social media activities can be seen as brand awareness, but in the end, ticket sales are a key driver to success. Personal connections drive engagement. By giving fans access to unique stories about players on the Portland Timbers & Thorns teams, soccer fans in Portland get to engage in ways they never could have imagined. Follow NWLS Players | Follow MLS Players

The Lifestyle Factor of Sports

Athletes are becoming celebrities like never before. Soccer players internationally are seeing a surge of interest – and it’s not necessarily in their playing ability. Interest includes lifestyle, fashion and important causes that the players support. In the UEFA Champions League opening ceremony Alicia Keys was a brand ambassador representing Pepsi. Manchester United has tapped Adidas to connect Paul Pogba up with grime singer Stormzy in a viral music video. Sports marketing activation was a key reason behind this selection of a strategy. Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign is encouraging women to take up sport and they’re doing so due to the campaign. “It was about making sport relevant to women who didn’t previously think it was for them,” says Kate Dale, strategic lead, brand and digital, at Sport England. “Therefore, our starting point couldn’t be with established sports stars. The behavioral insights agency Canvas8 predicts that women sports fans are quickly out pacing male sports fans in their engagement, as evidenced by the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which was seen by more Americans than the NBA Finals or Stanley Cup that year. In Portland, the lifestyle and causes of many players are on display and well received by fans.

Sports marketing is changing quickly and the digital marketing strategies for sports teams are changing a rapid pace. Portland’s soccer teams have won several national championships, but the team’s successes off the field can be attributed to the personal connections that fans are able to have with players. In the stadium, premium food and beverage offerings keep fans happy, while the fan’s experience has been carefully considered.

At Off Road, we work with sports teams, sports associations, and athletes to create sports marketing plans and strategies that can bring the fan experience to the forefront.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help develop better sports marketing strategies
P.S. Do you want to know the important metrics to track in a sports marketing campaign?

These are the 3 metrics that we think are important:

Ticket and Merchandise Revenue: Obviously this is a driver of revenue and success, but how to do you track revenue to a social media past? We can work with you to create a better tracking environment for your different marketing channels to see where revenue originates.

Follower Gain & Engagement: How much is a follower worth? Not much if you’re not engaging them with interesting content. Your team has great stories to tell, we’ll show you how you can tell those stories to the right audience and increase engagement.

Reach & Sentiment: The number of people that you reach and the conversations that they are having is a key metrics that needs to be tracked. Gain invaluable insight into what fans think about team and sports organization decisions with a sentiment tracking campaign. Understand how many people in your target market you are reaching. Building reach and sentiment tracking strategies and reports is a strength of our sports marketing strategy.

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Scott Fish

Scott Fish is the CMO at Off Road, responsible for the business development team and managing the marketing delivery and client management team. During the past two decades, he has worked with growing companies around the world in evolving industries such as tourism, franchises, hotels, sports associations and cultural organizations. Scott is a founding board member of SEMpdx, the largest regionally focused digital marketing organization in the US. He creates strategies to drive more business and connect better with their customers.