Commentary

Union Marketing Mix: It’s all about the product

In marketing speak, a product is an item that is built or produced to satisfy the needs of a certain group of people. When it comes to the Union, the product is supposed to put butts in the seats and to keep them coming back.

The Union’s current on-the-field-product is finally looking good enough to expect it to bring back lost fans and even attract some new ones. Jamiro Monteiro and Ilsinho pull the kind of moves that embarrass opponents and leave onlookers hooting with vindictive delight. The back line is sound, albeit a little scary at times. Kai Wagner is erasing the fond memories of Jordan Harvey and Jack Elliott is the very model of a modern major centerback. Haris Medunjanin and Ale Bedoya have been stalwarts.

It’s a small sample size, but Sergio Santos and Kacper Przybylko look like the kind of punch-above-your-weight strikers we thought we’d get from Earnie. Even the Accam-for-Monteiro and Derrick Jones transactions demonstrate Ernst Tanner’s formidable and fearless product improvement skills. And with so many goals by so many different players, the U look like they’re finally bringing Glocks to this gunfight. Who needs a Zlatan?

The GDE

The overall Game Day Experience is part of the “Product.” Now the GDE all by itself doesn’t put butts in the seats.  GDE is more like a competitive differentiator. Since there’s no guarantee the team on the field will win, you want to make sure the fans can still feel that they had an enjoyable experience. And will return.

For starters, there’s the Toyota Plaza experience, which is far better than the pregame setup at D.C. United or Red Bulls Arena. So kudos there. The Union also have one of the best goal celebrations anywhere. It’s loud, it’s singable, it’s all-inclusive, and it’s maximum Philly Phun. Now spread some of that around the rest of the GDE and you’ll really have something.

There’s no doubt that the Union are working hard on continuously improving the GDE, in ways large and small. A partial list of recent improvements includes new activities, food trucks and sponsor engagements in Toyota plaza; the well-attended Easter egg hunt; moving the Sons of Ben to Lot B to give them greater visibility; the addition of the Tunnel Club; improvements to the Ale House deck as well as the stadium stores; and of course, the ever-popular burning of the 16 ft. Red Bull when the Scarlett Bovines are in town.

And that’s not all. Senior Marketing VP Doug Vosik shared some really big GDE plans in the process of writing this post. But as a wizened news editor once told me, “Plans ain’t news.” So I’ll let the Union’s PR folks break the good news when it happens.

Like, Fireworks

Fireworks nights might be the best GDE you can get. So think about what makes pyrotechnical extravaganzas such a draw. They are loud, big, bright, shiny and perhaps most importantly – rare. The lesson: go big, go spectacular and provide rare live experiences.

On that note, there are a few things about the current GDE one can’t help but wonder about. For instance: The on-field flag waving may be a nice way to involve the fans who are doing the waving. Now, Phang waving one of those flags is OK. Phang running his ass off with an Arsenal-sized 20-foot banner, with Phangette doing the same in the opposite direction would be freakin’ awesome.

Moreover, supporters’ sections at stadiums worldwide are allowed to use flags to celebrate or whip up the excitement and pageantry. So why no flags for the Sons of Ben? Where’s the trust?  Where’s the engagement? Where’s the spectacle, pageantry and Phun? There must be a reason.

Modern baseball stadiums have features that families can use to entertain the kids who are too young to focus full time on game action.  Toyota Plaza has the potential to provide game-time entertainment for kids and parents alike. Should something like that be in the Union’s planned improvements?

Were you there for the “May the Fourth” observance? Those videos of players dissing the Star Wars franchise were a buzzkill for SW fans.  No one thought of editing them out?  GDE needs to be an irony-free experience.  (Remember the big shiny trash truck exhibited in Toyota plaza when the team was underperforming? Irony struck again).

Or take the drumline; they are really good and getting better, although they aren’t really being mic’d all that well.  Those great solos need to be on-camera (it disses the soloist when they aren’t) and loud. And can they help lead chants in the River End?

I get that the printed word is old-fashioned, carbon-based and costly. So it’s logical to put game-day lineups on the website so you can look them up on your smart phone if you want. But some of us haven’t memorized player numbers yet. Why game-day lineups with no jersey numbers? And why no season schedule magnets for the fridge. Relics of the past?

Nit-Picking?

It might sound like nit-picking (because it is), but the GDE can and should be as much like fireworks as possible: go big, go rare, go spectacular, go all-in, take no half-chances and avoid anything that smacks of irony, lameness or tone-deafness. Union marketers should always remember that they are identified with a certain sports citizenry that once rightfully snowballed a half-assed Santa Claus. The GDE should match the quality and effort of this great edition of the Union.

And the Zlatan? I won’t kid you, one of those would undoubtedly put more butts in the seats, too. Anyone know where we can get one cheap?

  • Next Week: the role of Price in putting – and keeping – butts in seats.

SPECIAL NOTE: The Union are looking to add a Post-Game “Victory/Thank You” celebration that connects the team with the fans. Is signing autographs enough? How about Seba challenging Phang to a pushups contest? Autographed balls kicked into the stands? Union marketers would like your input, so post your ideas below.

28 Comments

  1. The drumline used to come around to Lot A before the games. That was a neat experience.

  2. I am happy with the $5 beer before kick-off at the Ale Deck. Think the Ale deck is fantastic with the selections they have and the views. Also gives me a chance to catch up with folks I have not seen for a while. Was also always nice to have a chat with Earnie when he was still here and when we walked across the deck just before kick-off. They also have good sausage sandwiches up there. Don’t care much about anything else.

  3. Dont we always sing “I’m part of the Union” on the walk out? I have thought there should be more guys out signing autographs. The area surrounding the stadium needs the promised improvements. That would help a ton. A place or 2 to eat if you’re not tailgating. But that’s a ways off!

  4. The GDE would be better if it was in the Philadelphia city limits.

  5. We used to do flags in the river end. I remember they sent everyone a flag in their Sons of Ben membership package one year and would distribute poles to everyone before kickoff. I thought it was a great idea too but most people around me did nothing but complain about them and how they blocked their view so that’s probably one reason why. I remember a fight almost breaking out in my section because of a flag back in one of the first seasons.

  6. Part of the GDE is getting to the stadium and then going home. Philadelphia is the center of our metro region, not Chester. If you live north of the city, Chester is far away.
    .
    I live in Burlington County, NJ. I can be in Center City in about 30 minutes, but it takes me almost an hour to get to and from Chester. That adds an hour in my car to my GDE. I imagine its even worse for someone who’s from, say, Bucks County.
    .
    Once there though, I enjoy the GDE. I especially liked when they opened the TruMark club to season ticket holders after the game. I can go there and have a beer while I let traffic die down. I could save some money and have a beer in the parking lot, but with all the cars moving around as the lot empties out, its not fun. I think they shouldn’t restrict this to just season ticket holders though.

  7. The Truth says:

    The gameday experience isn’t designed for me – white dude in my late 20s with no children.
    .
    That said, I am completely tired of the Doop nonsense. I would like to transition to a shipping fog horn goal celebration. We’re right on a major shipping lane. It makes so much sense. The organization has to evolve. Can we please leave the Doop in the 10th season?

    • I don’t hate this idea, but worry it would end up sounding too much like a hockey goal.
      .

      I would like to see the players do a quick victory loop/thank you at home when they win. I can’t say we’ve always deserved it as fans, but I do think it would help build the relationship between the players and fans. As an early 30s with no children guy myself, I couldn’t care less about autographs, but have always liked the opportunity for players and fans to applaud one another after the game. Maybe its silly, but it gives you a chance to recognize the players for their effort and for the players to recognize the fans for their support. It makes the fans feel a bit more invested in the game, and hopefully makes the players feel like their work was appreciated.

    • SilverRey says:

      Honestly, Doop is one of the best goal celebrations in MLS. It gets the crowd moving. Most MLS teams just have the announcer yelling something stupid.
      .
      Fog horns are for hockey.

      • Agreed. It gets the crowd moving – you can’t clap or sing along to a fog horn. It sparks conversation – a co-worker asked me what the whole “doop thing” means just this week. DOOP, while not original, is still unique. A “shipping” horn – not so much.

  8. SilverRey says:

    As an avid collector of the magnet calendars for the past 7yrs, 2017 was the only year that they didn’t make one that I know of. That said, this year’s calendar is pretty sad and looks more like an ad for an HVAC company (why is it yellow? and where did the team logos go?) and does not scream Union at all. I also think they should give them out beyond just opening day.
    .
    I would love to see the drum line join up with the SOBs during the game. Get them up there after they do their thing!

    • THE 2019 SCHEDULE IS JUST PLAIN EMBARRASSING. LAST SEASON’S WAS THE BEST I’VE SEEN. IT WAS EASY TO READ AND LOOKED VERY NICE. THE UNION FO HAS NOTORIOUSLY BEEN A HEADSCRATCHING JOKE OVER THE YEARS.

  9. The pre-game flag waving was neat at first, but it’s getting old and (as a former marching band geek) it looks like a disorganized mess.

    As Matt said it’s a nice way to involve the fans who are doing the waving, but instead of turning fans into a pre-game show, why not turn the show into fans! Invite area band/guard members to wave flags, or chorus members to perform the Star Spangled Banner (sorry, Ashli Rice). Then, let them stay for the game. Who knows, maybe they’ll become fans themselves.

    It can be high school or college musicians/performers, or ANY age-group really. Feature a drum corps when they’re passing through on tour (some already perform at the annual event held at Talen).

    Also, why not utilize the local (West Chester) production company whose bread-and-butter is special events like this, including the Philly Thanksgiving and Independence Day parades…which reminds me, why aren’t the Union more involved in events like THAT?!

  10. 50 plus years in the game says:

    They’ve been bad too long.

    It is too hard to get to the Stadium from too many places.

    There is ZERO chance to “…march to the match…”

    They have no identity in Philly as a Philly team.

    They have no identity as being a team that plays a particular style.

    They have never had another guy like Le Toux in terms of recognition and community involvement-especially in Chester County for Le Toux.

    The Sons of Ben are getting old-literally and metaphorically.

  11. You have to market the game to its core. Send out a team rep with one player…. could be Andre, Ale, Kai, Harris, Jack…. to a local hotbed. YSC, in KOP, West chester, Media, Kennet Square, south Philly, neshaminy area, Wilmington and central NJ. Let them take pics, sign a few balls and maybe do a 30 minute lessson with the 6-10 yr olds then have a free raffle. Get another 50+ seats in the place. 50 could turn into 200…. who knows? The stadium is great. The parking is fine. Leaving is a total PITA but that’s because I no longer do a post game pint. This area is primed for proper soccer audience. They have not hired the right people to market their product.

  12. Btw, cheers to you guys who work for this site. I’m in row k section 122. 9yr season tix holder. I’m at every game with my 6yr old who hopefully will play for this squad in due time. I’d be happy to by yas a pint or two. GO U!!!

  13. During the inaugural season I worked with the company that produces the holiday parades in Philly. I sent their contact info to the Union, told them how great it would be to have something, ANYTHING to represent the team in that year’s July 4th parade – even just the van with the name and logo rolling down the parade route. Union’s response: thanks, but no thanks – we have other things planned. Guess who WAS at the parade: the Phillies ball girls, Eagles drumline, Sixers cheerleaders… Such a great opportunity for exposure, and absolutely NO interest from the Union. SMDH

  14. HAVE TO COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH THE STATEMENT ABOUT JORDAN HARVEY. HE’S TURNED INTO MLS CLASS POSITION PLAYER AT LB.

    GDE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE SAME. THE FIRST FEW SEASONS, TRE WAS PRETTY WILD. NOWAK ERA. HAVING THE STADIUM LOCATED IN THE SUBURBS, THE TARGET AUDIENCE HERE IS FAMILIES. EVEN THE SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE IS NERDY AND YOUTH PROMOTED.

    AS FOR HOW THE PUBLICS HAVE CHANGED OVER THE YEARS, SOB ARE OLD AF. AT LEAST IM NOT BERATED IN TRE WHEN IM TRYING TO PAY ATTENTION.

    KEEP WINNING AND MORE PEOPLE WILL SHOW UP. SIMPLE

  15. So much truth in these comments it hurts.

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