Maryland fans at their finest (photo credit Gazette.net)
Guest Post by Tim Staub
Last week Real Salt Lake (per BYU Student Paper and Footiebusiness.com) launched a student punch card program. This program allows the students of BYU, Utah and Utah Valley to buy a punch card that will let them in for all 15 games for around $75 ($5/game). Multiple students can also use the punch card as long as they have an ID and the card. As Daniel Ng of the Universe put it, it’s a money saving deal of a lifetime. Aside from the financial aspect, the students will be placed with Barra Real, a supporters section on the south end of the field. While not offering playoff tickets (assuming Real continues their title defense), this idea is a great marketing tactic.
Now one should ask, why take a financial hit to get college students? It’s a good question; college students usually live the definition of frugality. College students are also at their last impressionable stages of their lives. It's at this point where most Americans develop their tendencies, relationships, etc. It is this idea that reminds me of my first run in with Major League Soccer, when I attended the first ever NY/NJ MetroStars game. At the time I was seven years old and playing recreational soccer. My father, who loves sports as much, if not more than, I do, decided to take me to the game in the hopes of teaching me about soccer on a higher level. I don’t remember a thing, as I assume many kids of a similar age that attend sporting events don't. Unless there is a reinforced connection with a team, those kids the soccer moms are ushering to the stadiums probably won’t remember they went.
Going after the college student has a potential to be explosive future investment. Campuses already are filled with soccer fans. Pay a visit to a campus on a Champions League day and you will see shirts emblazoned with AIG, Emirates, and Unicef among the crowds. In addition to this, there is always a strong international student presence. This does have a drawback of potential Eurosnobbery; but I have seen first hand, if given a team and put in a supporters section, Eurosnobbery goes by the wayside in support for the MLS side. Once the MLS club has a collegiate fan coming to multiple games and giving their passion to the club, the fan is more likely to return in the future. That future might include children of their own who are reinforced with following their parent's club, and thus a new generation of fanaticism is born. While I'll leave it up to MLS on how and where to market itself, the teams (especially ones like the Crew who are right in a college town) should not miss out what could be a long lasting gold mine that in the impressionable college student.
Tim Staub (tstaub on twitter and blogs, njndirish on BigSoccer) is a Marketing Major at the University of Notre Dame. He is currently working on developing a club for viewing soccer and to support the University’s squads. His website can be found here.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.