Minnesota can lay claim to a team in all six major sports leagues in the United States. The newest of the bunch is Minnesota United FC, who joined Major League Soccer for the 2017 season. “The Loons” are one of the hottest tickets in town, known for a lively game and a great crowd atmosphere. As recently as 2012, however, professional soccer in Minnesota was on life support. Check out how Brave New Media helped grow the beautiful game in our great state.
Professional soccer in Minnesota dates back to the 1970s, when the Kicks played host to some of the biggest stars in the world. Kicks games would draw around 23,000 fans a game at the old Metropolitan Stadium, with their attendance peaking at 32,775. A few other iterations tried to capture this excitement, to middling results. When the North American Soccer League (NASL) was founded in 2011, they wanted a team in Minnesota. However, the NSC Minnesota Stars were owned by the league, and the whole project didn’t look sustainable.
The Stars’ coach at the time, Manny Lagos, is a friend of BNM partner and video producer Damian Petrou. The two spoke at an event in 2011 and decided to start a marketing partnership between Brave New Media and the Stars. We agreed to support all marketing activities on a pro-bono basis until the team found a new owner. The first year deployed a campaign called “Shine On.” We handled design and development of a new website for the Stars. The partnership included coordinating photography and video at every match, enhanced creative for social media channels, and making new sponsorship decks and marketing materials. This gave a full season’s worth of content, for web, social and game day!
While 2011 gave a solid footing, 2012 required another step up. We deemed 2012 “The Year of the Fan.” This included contests on Twitter to increase engagement, challenging fans to introduce new faces to the team via Facebook, creating Match Day Moments, and providing new content via web, email, and social media channels. All of this was done to increase attendance, sponsorship, merchandise sales, and an online presence. During the Year of the Fan, Dr. Bill McGuire attended a few games. At the end of the year, he purchased the team, giving stability to the Stars!
With a rebrand to Minnesota United, there were new marketing challenges to overcome. Brave New Media was chosen to design and build the new club website using the sharp visual design from Zeus Jones. We also produced and managed all print ads, radio ads, and videos for the club.
At the heart of our work with Minnesota United, we came up with the 2014 season marketing campaign: The Summer of Soccer. With a World Cup scheduled that summer, BNM helped Minnesota United increase their footprint across the Twin Cities. A pair of marquee matches against international teams helped draw new faces and larger crowds to Minnesota United matches. Brave New Media created print ads, TV spots, radio ads, digital ads, social media contests, and soccer events to further the reach.
The results of this partnership were very apparent. In 2011, Minnesota’s average attendance was only 400 per match. By the end of 2014, that figure skyrocketed to over 6,000 per match! Even sweeter, Minnesota United was selected as an MLS expansion team in early 2015. For a team that seemed close to folding in 2012, the move to MLS gave United – and Minnesota soccer as a whole – some long overdue stability! We’re proud to have partnered with our friends at Minnesota United, and can’t wait to see what the future of soccer in this state holds.