News: Why MLS thrives in PNW ....

Discussion in 'MLS: News & Analysis' started by Fiosfan, Jun 20, 2011.

  1. Ganapper

    Ganapper Member

    Apr 5, 2009
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    What attendance smack? The discussion about attendance was started by a Portland fan disputing a pretty minor statement. Then some facts were presented.

    I haven't seen any "oh yeah well you don't have as many fans as we do." Since the current discussion was started.
     
  2. Fenerbace

    Fenerbace Member

    Oct 8, 2008
    Club:
    Portland Timbers
    Nat'l Team:
    Turkey
    And I've never seen a sounder be satisfied with any level of information about Timbers USL attendance. Nobody is bothered by your skepticism either way.
     
  3. Ganapper

    Ganapper Member

    Apr 5, 2009
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Who said I was skeptical?

    You are too blinded by the fact that I'm displaying Sounders as the team I support. Any neutral observer to the discussion is gonna take Jasonma's cited facts over "I read a blog once somewhere that said this."

    If you provide that blog for me and others to read and it has some decent analysis I'd be more than willing to listen to your side of the conversation.

    Hell, I don't really care what Portland's attendance was or is and why it went up or down, you are confusing me with some idiots on here because I support the same club as they do.
     
  4. Kejsare

    Kejsare Member+

    Mar 10, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    Club:
    Portland Timbers
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Explanation:
    In 2010, home game #2 and #3 fell exactly on the same date as the Trailblazer's playoff games against the Phoenix Suns. Glad I went to the Timbers matches because they won their game while the Trailblazers lost.

    Those attendance numbers were almost entirely season ticket holders.
     
  5. sammysounder74

    sammysounder74 New Member

    Jun 25, 2011
    SEAAAAAAAATLE!
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    It's true, Timbers fans support their team when they suck.

    Sounders fans support our team when we win.

    Would the reverse be true? The world may never know . . .
     
  6. sammysounder74

    sammysounder74 New Member

    Jun 25, 2011
    SEAAAAAAAATLE!
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    In defense of Vancouver, and in support of whoever it was earlier who argued about the importance of the downtown stadiums. Just wait until the renovation of BC Place is complete.

    There's historically been one Cascadian club that's bigger than the other two. It's not Seattle and it's certainly not Timbers.
     
  7. doog

    doog Member

    Jun 11, 2006
    I'll say that I don't think you're giving enough credit to the job Paulson did after he took over. He purchased the Timbers from the PCL, who took over for PFE after they went out of business. Neither the PCL nor PFE cared much about the Timbers, and were pretty antagonistic towards the TA from what I understand. Paulson did a pretty good job of recognizing quickly that the TA were the Timbers' biggest asset, and actually mended a lot of fences that needed mending between the TA and the Timbers' front office. The gains you see in attendance in 2007-2008 IMO are attributable to him doing a good job of outreach and marketing.

    I think the pre-2007 numbers bear this out, they were pretty steady in the three years prior (2006: 5575, 2005: 5553, 2004: 5281) and never exceeded the 2007 total in any of the other years (2003: 5871, 2002: 6261, 2001: 5974).

    Take this with a grain of salt if you like, but there was really no Timbers/MLS buzz in this city until late 2008/early 2009. While the TA were certainly aware of Paulson's MLS aspirations, it had about as much traction as MLB to PDX has had until it had become apparent that there was a real chance that it would happen. I'd absolutely agree that 2009 and 2010's attendance gains are attributable to MLS though, I bought my season tickets starting in 2009 so that I'd be sure to get MLS season tickets, boosting my total game attendance from something 6 games a year from 2006-2008 to the full 15 in 2009.
     
  8. Fenerbace

    Fenerbace Member

    Oct 8, 2008
    Club:
    Portland Timbers
    Nat'l Team:
    Turkey
    That's pretty much it. A single meeting with Garber in 2007 didn't make any real impression in local news in a way that people who weren't already predisposed to pay attention to the Timbers would suddenly pay attention.

    For people outside the TA, it's fair to say that there was no significant awareness of MLS potential in Portland until after the 2008 season - two seasons after we hit that 15,833 mark for a regular league game.

    Timbers didn't have any discernable MLS buzz in 2007 when the club brought 10-16k for a few matches and averaged about 9000 for the season.

    And while nobody who was around Portland in 2007 will say that there was any kind of MLS buzz driving attendance (as we already see in this thread) people are inclined to believe that 2009 and 2010 attendance were driven by MLS - surely it had some impact, but from what I recall it was not a statistically significant change from the attendance trends up to that point.

    And we can see that already in the annual numbers that the MLS effect did not result in an unprecedented bump. There was only an 11% increase each year after the MLS buzz kicked in, but timbers were already seeing that magnitude of seasonal increases in the years prior. Some years had double that rate of increase, all well before MLS was a remote possibility.

    So, no it doesn't appear MLS buzz had an effect on USL attendance.
     
  9. JasonMa

    JasonMa Member+

    Mar 20, 2000
    Arvada, CO
    Club:
    Colorado Rapids
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    But doesn't your explanation also call into question the original statement? That by looking at the attendance numbers in the past you can see that the Timbers fans have always supported the team and as such we need not worry about what a long streak of poor play might due to attendance? If fans were pretty down about the Timbers and not showing up until Paulson bought the team and invested money in them then isn't it fair to question what might happen if the fans once again believe their owner isn't making the effort due to results and play on the field?

    From your explanation it sounds like the Timbers were at 5K for a few years because nobody was really excited about them. Then Paulson showed up and spent money, getting an attendance bump, then a couple of years later the MLS news created an additional attendance bump, and now in MLS its created another attendance bump. The original question that started this sub-thread was "What happens after that MLS bump wears off?". The response was "Look at our history, don't worry about it" but your response doesn't seem like the history is a great backup to that response.
     
  10. carnifex2005

    carnifex2005 Member+

    Jul 1, 2008
    Club:
    Vancouver Whitecaps
    Actually the history shows that if you put money into marketing the team, people would show up, MLS or no MLS. As simple as that for PNW but I doubt it would be the same for other markets.
     
  11. Potowmack

    Potowmack Member+

    Apr 2, 2010
    Washington, DC
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    And it should be pointed out that the reason Paulson spent money on the team is because he had an eye on an MLS expansion slot. Increasing attendance looks good for anyone trying to get into MLS. The growth of popularity during that period was not organic growth- it was growth engineered by a savvy businessman with long-term plans for his investment. If his MLS bid had failed for some reason, Paulson would have stopped spending money on marketing and Timbers attendance would likely have drifted back down to the 5K mark.
     
  12. Heist

    Heist Member+

    Jun 15, 2001
    Virginia
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    All of this might be moot now that Portland has seemed to turn into a huge soccer city. In some cases, once you build a fan base, its takes a lot to tear it back down. Here in DC, the Redskins have been horrible for almost 20 years now and reportedly have a 40-50k season ticket waiting list despite the owner who is worse than the team is on the field. It took a while to build that fan base, but it not going anywhere any time soon. I'm not saying anything like that has happened in Portland, but from all I've read and seen on games on TV, the fan support just looks a little different than other stadiums.
     
  13. Fenerbace

    Fenerbace Member

    Oct 8, 2008
    Club:
    Portland Timbers
    Nat'l Team:
    Turkey
    As a savvy businessman, Paulson didn't invest a lot into advertising until he knew there would be a return, and we all know he wasn't going to invest into building the brand he was planning to overhaul.

    Respect to all of you who supported MLS clubs in the dark days, but I have to believe it is hard for you to understand what a USL club is really like. Take your weakest MLS marketing and cut that production value in half and you have USL advertising.

    Paulson didn't engage the marketing and PR agencies until 2010. There was not any sort of huge marketing push - it was still minor league spending.

    Forget about the notion that Paulson came in and everything changed. In 2007 we fans were still doing more outreach / propaganda than the meager advertising effort was. And don't forget, Paulson came to town looking to own a baseball team. It's wasn't the grand design orchestrated by one smart businessman that you would paint it as, it was Timbers army growing the fanbase one by one by dragging our friends out to matches. None of us would have stopped doing that regardless of the current owner.
     
  14. bgix

    bgix Bad Penny

    Jun 29, 2009
    Seattle
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    "Thirsty Thursdays"
     
  15. aperfectring

    aperfectring Member+

    Jul 13, 2011
    Hillsboro, OR
    Club:
    Portland Timbers
    And now some input from a new Portland fan:

    I was already somewhat of a soccer fan before moving to Portland 2 years ago, so I was aware of the Timbers, and even went to a game or two during the USL era. However, there was *NO* marketing penetration. If I didn't already know about the Timbers, I would not have been exposed to them, even with all the Portland blogs and such I had started to read. Any growth during the USL era is likely due to word of mouth spread, and that could indirectly be because of the move to MLS coming up.

    Both Portland and Seattle's huge jump in season ticket holders when they made the move to MLS is very much due to marketing success. Both teams made ad campaigns targeted towards their respective key demographics. Seattle made the game attractive to the young professional crowd by making the Sounders games seem like a hip/cool/whatever term place to spend a saturday night. Portland made the game attractive to the young people there due to civic pride, which really does run very strong here.

    Seattle *might* have some issues with attendance whenever their team starts getting more losses than wins, but the longer they are good, the more they will develop the lifelong fans who won't be deterred by a couple bad seasons. I wish nothing but the best for the Sounders in maintaining and growing their fan base.

    Portland will be in the same boat, but probably to a lesser extent. This is partially due to the size of the stadium (come on, at current capacity it is smaller than the Rose Garden which regularly sells out), and partially due to the fervent following of any "big time" team in Portland/Oregon. There is a reason why the Trailblazers have the longest streak of sell-out games in American pro sports, and it isn't because they were consistently winning throughout that time.

    I neglect to mention Vancouver, not because I don't think they are a success, but because I don't know enough about the city/market to say.

    I think the key to replicating the success of the PNW is finding a way for these teams to appeal to the young adults of their respective cities. That is where you will find the lifelong fans who will follow the team through good times and bad. I think all franchises, new and old, can benefit from doing this. It will not be easy anywhere, nor, I imagine, was it particularly easy in the PNW.
     
  16. supercooper

    supercooper Red Card

    Jun 23, 2008
    What is the current revenue estimates for Sounders? Must be ungodly in soccer terms.

    Also, what % do they spend on players? They really don't have any stars
    on their team- so total salaries must be ridiculously low on a % basis.

    I think they owe it to the fans to step up and sign some real stars, preferably offensive stars. The owners shouldn't just milk this team for cash flow.

    Credit to the Red Bulls for a massive investment. Time for Sounders to step
    up and do the same.
     
  17. Kejsare

    Kejsare Member+

    Mar 10, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    Club:
    Portland Timbers
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Sadly, Henri's recent comments on the turf quality at Clink is not going to win superstars.
     
  18. bgix

    bgix Bad Penny

    Jun 29, 2009
    Seattle
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    Of course the Sounders are doing quite well financially.

    As to payroll, I believe they spend all of the league-provided payroll they are allowed, and have two DPs. But rather than take the NY or LA route they have chosen (at least since the Lundberg thing) to focus on hot young talent, in this case Fredy Montero and Alvro Fernandez.

    NY and LA's method of signing marquee has it's benefits getting butts in seats, but since the butts are already there in Seattle, I prefer the long-term-investment over the late-career-superstar approach.
     
  19. carnifex2005

    carnifex2005 Member+

    Jul 1, 2008
    Club:
    Vancouver Whitecaps
    Why would they have to do that? They already are one of the best teams in the league and have never missed the playoffs. Seattle may be a power for awhile because their team have been kept together and their stars are fairly young.
    Hell, even if a foreign team wanted to buy one of their stars, Seattle could easily afford to keep them. I'm very happy they are making money hand over fist and still winning without needing to splash on (Freddie aside) on foreign stars.
     
  20. Yoshou

    Yoshou Moderator
    Staff Member

    May 12, 2009
    Seattle
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    The Sounders are spending their money, they are just doing it in different ways. I'm not sure if this is still true as other teams might have one now, but the Sounders were the only team in the league that had a full-time scout, they are supposedly a lot more active with contracting out to scouting companies to find international talent for them, and they are building relationships with teams in "developing" areas of the world to try and get ahead of the player curve in those areas. They've also spent a fair amount of change building up their academy to the point that they both finished first in their division this past year.

    So while NYRB are throwing out money on salaries on superstars to bolster their team now and at the expense of depth on their team, the Sounders are spending their money to make sure the team builds the depth that is needed to make deep runs into USOC, CCL, and the playoffs.
     
  21. asoc

    asoc Member+

    Sep 28, 2007
    Tacoma
    Follow the lead of the NYRBs?
    You are kidding right?

    I much prefer what we have in Seattle to what is going on with the NYRBs.
     
  22. Sempuukyaku

    Sempuukyaku Member+

    Apr 30, 2002
    Seattle, WA
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    We're currently the #2 team in the league right now behind LA, have qualified for two CCLs and have won two US Open Cups. The owners are not "milking this team for cash flow".
     
  23. KnucklesBuchanan

    Jul 12, 2007
    Section 149
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    And for all those who love to talk smack about the Sounders and their lack of fans in the USL days (I was one of them, by the way), Hanauer didn't put a DIME into advertising the team. He ran the team in such a way where he kept his losses at a minimum, but boosting the advertising without the guarantee of larger ticket sales kept him from doing so. Now, I'm not defending his decision, I'm just relating what he told me in an email.

    Seattle's a different town than Portland. We had the M's and the Storm to compete with the USL Sounders, whereas PDX only had to deal with another minor league team. It may not seem like the audiences would cross over, but they do. And it also makes a difference to new fans who want to see the "major" league team, as opposed to a minor league team. Those of us who went always enjoyed the quality of play, at least under Hanauer's ownership, but getting new people involved became difficult. With the MLS, it's a far easier proposition.
     
  24. DarthGreedo

    DarthGreedo Member

    Jun 11, 2009
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Thats interesting since Henry has never played a game on the turf in Seattle... He was suspended this year and wasn't with the team last year when New York came to town. :confused:
     
  25. doog

    doog Member

    Jun 11, 2006
    Maybe, but I have my doubts. The previous ownership groups were pretty hostile towards the TA, the big change Paulson made was embracing the TA and working with them to create an environment that they enjoyed, without ruining the game for the family crowd (regulating smoke bombs, getting rid of YSA). He made life a lot easier for the TA and I think that helped them to grow significantly, which in turn helped team growth. Might the fanbase blame Paulson if the team doesn't perform? Possibly, but he's got a lot of goodwill in this town from getting the Timbers to MLS and from the way he's run opteratiosn, he'd have to do a pretty significant about-face before people got pissy. Also, generally you blame the coach first and the GM second... so Paulson's probably got somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 years before of solid losing before he gets the blame.

    I'd also argue that a 5000 person average for minor league soccer is pretty damn good, that they Timbers averaged that while laboring under hostile or disinterested ownership tells me that they'll be able to maintain a 12k average for the foreseeable future, and according to Paulson's numbers in 2008 (or was it 2009?) that's all the Timbers need to turn a profit. I do think it's silly to suggest that losing year-in year-out absolutely won't affect the team's popularity, that's impossible to know. There are definitely teams that have built up that sort of fanbase (prime example: the Chicago Cubs), but this is year one of an expansion team and you can't yet count on all of the 8,000 people who weren't going to games last year to stick around, can you?
     

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