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Where are the Latino fans?

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Union

Well, Philadelphia Union have finally made it back onto the front page of The Inquirer.  Not because they are playing great Footy – WHICH THEY ARE! – but because they aren’t coming close to filling Talen Energy Stadium.

The article at philly.com/latinofans [translation HERE] asks the headline question “Can Union score points with Latinos?” And in assessing the Union’s hope that Marco Fabian will somehow flip a switch and attract an absent fan base, it probes deeply into the Union’s marketing effectiveness.

The article discovers a number of weaknesses in the Union’s efforts to market to Latinos, and not a lot of strengths.  For instance:

  • The Union have shed Latin American players over the years, to the extent that as of now, only Fabian and Brazilians Sergio Santos and Ilsinho remain prominent. (Fabinho and new goalkeeper Carlos Coronel are backups.) The latter two have been spectacular, but the local Brazilian cohort is nowhere near the size of the CONCACAF-centric Latino population. And stalwart that he is, Alejandro Bedoya just isn’t a big draw for this market segment.
  • The Union FO lost connection with supporters group La Union Latina, which at one time was buying group tickets for more than 200 fans at a time. The reason? To be recognized as an official support group, LAL needed signatures of 120 season ticket-holders, and they could muster only 50. LAL folded early in 2017. Could the Union use those 50 season ticket-holders now? How about the 200 group tickets LAL used to sell?
  • The Union have failed to connect in other ways.  Like the soccer-centric store in the Italian market that sells everything but Union merch for lack of a little “carino.” A Colombian footy fan and business owner in Northern Liberties who wasn’t aware Fabian was playing for the Union this year. How about failing to play Mexican music for Fabian’s first game, or the lack of Spanish-language announcements in the stadium or over the Union’s social media channels? No Spanish section on the website? Really?

What does the front office have to say in its defense? Consider:

  • A four-game deal with UniMas to provide Spanish play-by-play commentary. Four whole games! Wow.
  • A “Cinco de Marco” community event in Kennett Square.  That’s roughly half the population of the town, and it’s fairly close to Chester, so credit where credit is due: It looks like a good move among many needed moves.
  • Adding a Latino academy by partnering with Super Liga. Perhaps a good, albeit rather small step.
  • Offering an office hours program through which fans could discuss ideas with team staff members and execs. Meh. Hope they have an interpreter. And how is the program being promoted?

The Inquirer article hints at a lot of ways that the Union can improve its approach to attracting the Latino market segment.  But a lot of things that the Union should be doing to fill Talen are pretty much Marketing 101 stuff (or maybe 201 – it’s been a long time since college).  Like making sure you’re covering all the 7P’s in the Union’s marketing bases: Product, Price, Promotion, Place, People, Process, Physical Evidence.

I have a lot of questions about how well Union Marketing boss Doug Vosik is covering the Marketing Mix. And I’m sure he has a lot of answers.  I’ll be raising some of those questions in a continuing series on the Union’s 7 P’s. First up: Product. Watch for it later this week.


  1. Vince Devine says:

    And instead of doing some in-game marketing around Cinco de Mayo this past Saturday, they chose to go with a Star Wars theme May the Fourth. I get it, but there’s more potential revenue from Latino soccer fans than Star Wars soccer fans.

  2. Bottom line, the marketing of the Union as a whole, across all demographics, is sub-par.

  3. Marco Fabian plays for the Union? If he was a significant contributor to their current form, the Union could market him. The reality is he’s not. I honestly forgot him until they marketed that event.

    Marketing an event in Kennett Square might as well be another planet, which is what a large group of regional soccer fans think of Chester.

  4. Philly Jeff says:

    Honestly, the Philadelphia Union just need to do a better job overall of marketing, not just Latinos.

    45% of Philadelphia’s population is black and how many black fans do you see at the game? Heck, how does the average die-hard Philly fan relate to the team? The Philly Union spends too much time chasing suburban families and not appealing to the true core of Philly itself. If the Union did that, the appeal would be higher.

    Look at Atlanta United, Sporting KC, LAFC, Seattle, etc. I think a deep playoff push could revitalize the team’s image but it’s going to take a lot more than that.

    • to be fair though the Philly population is 1.5 million people while the suburban metro is closer to 5 million people. Really winning for a couple years is going to be necessary to really start bringing people out.

  5. Mark Andrew says:

    The problem with Fan attendance is the stadium location. I had season tickets the first year. Getting out of there it is very difficult. If this stadium was in South Philadelphia like the other stadiums, their attendance would definitely increase.

    • I agree in part with those who say winning wouldhelp, but I absolutely think stadium location is the greatest factor. Truth of the matter is, if the stadium were at the end of a subway stop, going to a match could be something people would do on a whim. As it stands now, that is not the case for many people.

    • I agree location is not ideal! But as someone coming from Jersey to the games we would have to drive no matter where they put it. Also there was talk early on that the stadium could have been in south Jersey, not south Philly. How much would that affect attend6?

    • The oproblem with fan attendance is the same for just about every sport. Winning. Just look at the Phillies attendance (which is in the location you are proposing) when they are good and when they are bad. The location is an issue, but it’s not the only one, and definitely not the biggest.

      • A. is right. A couple of years ago, when the Sixers sucked, they were giving away free tix to college students on weeknight games. Seems like a sure indication of an attendance problem. And they were in S. Philly. Now, not so much. Winning solves a lot of problems.

  6. Chris Gibbons says:

    The question about who encompasses “Latino” fans is also way more nuanced. To say that Union should market to “Latinos” is equivalent to saying they should market to “Africans” or “Asians.” There are so many different countries and cultures that fall into the broader “Latino” category that to have a generalized strategy will likely fail. Having Mexican and Brazilian players should lead the team to focus on those markets, or at least consider that strategy first. Partnering with UniMas is huge, as are the public appearances the players are doing. Consistency is key though.

  7. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Looking forward the series, Matt

  8. When I went to see the Union play in Houston and LA I could not believe how many Latinos tailgated before the game with lots of loud music and cooking up a storm. So different here where you barely see any Latinos in or around the stadium except at 1 or 2 spots. 1 or 2 more Latino players could make a huge difference.

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