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MLS in ATL: Engaging Fans

Almost a year ago, Major League Soccer announced its landmark decision that saw Atlanta, Ga., a city that hardly screams “soccer passion,” as the host of its next expansion franchise. With the new club starting from scratch, I wrote last year that this would be a case study for any business owner interested in brand building.

The club, led by Owner Arthur Blank and General Manager Darren Eagles (who has experience in the English Premier League), has enlisted the help of the city’s main soccer support group, Terminus Legion, to involve the fans in the club’s formative stage. It’s a wise move, which I’ll explain later, but first here’s some background on what’s happened.

Terminus Legion conducted a multi-stage poll that was open to the public for voting on the team name. The group posted regular updates, were quick to respond to voters with questions (I was one), and finally posted a comprehensive results summary. From the onset, Terminus Legion made it clear that their poll was not the end all be all, but would give the owners and club leaders a thorough insight into what the fans wanted or didn’t want. In short, the club created an open channel for dialogue with the public.

The Atlanta MLS team has utilized the passion Terminus Legion members have for soccer and used them as a channel to communicate with fans. Some members are pictured here during the MLS announcement last year.

The fact that the club is not just open for fan input, but actively soliciting it is a great omen. They are engaging a market to which they will be selling a product. Getting the market involved with the vision and direction of the club will give the fans ownership and a vested interest. Fans that feel this way will do more than just buy tickets — they will actively market the club 24/7 talking with their friends and colleagues.

Engaging someone else, whether it’s a colleague, a business partner, or even your sales target empowers those people. It gives them a sense of purpose. It inspires them. It makes them proud. And in the end, from a business owner’s perspective, it increases profits. Colleagues that are engaged with their work are going to be more productive. Period.

The Atlanta MLS team continues to be a great case study for business owners. How this team — in essence, its own company — operates is more public than what we’d normally get to see. Not only that, but you’re seeing it run by one of the most successful businessman in recent years. Be ready to take notes along with me, because class is in session.

Do you have any interesting ideas the club could use to further engage its fans? Let me know at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.