Chivas USA had no marketing in 2013, Jorge Vergara's one and only season as full owner. I've been told the marketing budget that season was about as close to $0 as an MLS team can get.
Although there's a new owner running things in 2014, with MLS taking control of the team, the stewardship situation of the club, as well as the expectation that the team will be rebranded under new ownership in 2015, means there hasn't been a lot of real marketing of Chivas USA this season, either.
It doesn't take an expert to tell you that's a problem. While Chivas USA's "home" games late in this lame duck year appear to be a battle to see how low the all-time MLS attendance record can go, the usual hate comes out to decry the failure of the franchise and how it needs to disappear, stat.
Let me bring up this point in response: if an MLS team was to fail to do any marketing on a mass community level for two seasons running, would attendance drop precipitously? Let's throw in the team's poor record in those two seasons, would the masses continue to come out? With the possible exceptions of Seattle and Portland, I'd wager that any team in MLS that was putting out a consistently losing product and that didn't market the club would probably see a steep drop off in stadium attendance. I'm no expert, but that seems pretty intuitive.
And there's a very minor league sports team that is kicking CUSA's butt in LA in marketing at the moment. The LA Kiss are new members in the Arena Football League that play in Anaheim. I'm sure you've seen the signs around the Los Angeles area, and its pretty apparent the team is affiliated with the rock band Kiss, and they are in fact owned by Kiss members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.
Now, my first impression with the LA Kiss is that they are a gimmick, and I'm going to go on record and say they probably won't exist in this form for the long haul. That said, if you were to ask random Angelinos to name the two MLS teams in the area, I'm guessing a whole heap of them would not know of Chivas USA, and if you were to ask about the pro sports team named after a rock band, more folks would name the LA Kiss. Why? Because the AFL team is building buzz.
Gene Simmons is a total boob, one who offends people with apparent glee, and yet, he appears to know what he's doing when it comes to marketing his new team. If an indoor football league can put up billboards, get in the local press on a regular basis, and the most 21st century strategy of all, develop and air a reality TV show about the team, Chivas USA's efforts to create theme nights, though creative, without really spreading the word on a wider level, means word is not really getting out.
The secret to dropping attendance is failing to continually put the word out about the team while seeing the team lose more often than win. Early returns on the Wilmer Cabrera era are mixed, as it's unclear if a team with real investment under Cabrera can truly lead to a winner, although the group at hand is improved over the disastrous 2013 squad.
But if a pro soccer team plays in a stadium where nobody's there to watch, does it really happen? The on-field component cannot be ignored, but it's obvious that the way to stop the horrible attendance figures, one that's putting a black eye on the team and its surviving fans, is a true and complete commitment to marketing it in the area. I take in media in two languages and drive around parts of LA on a consistent basis, and what the team has done the last two years is practically nonexistent. Again, I know the weird situation this year, but this holding pattern simply cannot persist.
Before you blame the fans for being fickle or advocate pulling the plug on the franchise, you should probably see what can be done with this club with committed ownership that invests in the on- and off-field product. With a competitive squad, with good marketing that puts the name of the new name of LA2 on the lips of Angelinos -- and continues to build that buzz -- the possibilities are practically limitless. Just don't let the fallacy of lack of investment and lack of marketing the last two seasons tell you this club can't work in LA with actual commitment.
I, for one, can't wait for the LA2 reality show, coming to a network soon near you, let's hope.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!