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Welcome to American Pyramid ladies and gentlemen readers! I'm going to let you get right into it today. This interview is part 2 of 2 with Jonathan Fonseca, President of National Premier Soccer League club Rhode Island Reds FC. You can read (or re-read) Part 1 by clicking Here. Otherwise, enjoy Part 2 of Sponsorship's and Ticket Sales. Check it out
Since the Reds aren't looking to go to MLS, where does the team plan to be in five years, and how do you intend to get there? Guess I should qualify that first though. You aren't looking into MLS, are you?
I mean it would be awesome to be in the MLS but there's no way that'll happen unless pro/rel becomes a thing and we somehow work our way into the top division. Dreams are always nice to have haha. But realistically in 5 years we want to have an established youth system which is something we do not have at the moment. We really want to be "the club" in Rhode Island where players know that they can be with us from u8 through college and they know that we will do everything in our power to help our players make it in there careers. If that's to play in college, the NPSL, NASL, MLS, or overseas. That's something i've noticed a lot of youth teams don't do. They seem to suck money out of these kids and their parents but never really give back. We want to give back to those in our system and help them in their journey. On field goals would be to make the playoffs in the NPSL and WPSL.
You brought up a really interesting point right there. Youth teams sucking money out of families. Working with a club who's goal is to have a full youth setup, how do you plan to address that side of things? Are you going to eat the cost, or get sponsors involved to either make it super affordable, or free to play?
We would love to get to a point where with sponsors it would be free to play. However that's a long way down the line so we would still be charging money. The difference will be is that we won't be charging an arm and a leg. It will be to cover the cost of the fields, coaches and league fees. Some of these parents are pay 2 thousand or more for a year not including the kits. It's insane and that's something that we want to change.
We are not looking to make 100k a year salaries. We want to enhance our communities and the game of soccer and make soccer the #1 sport in our state. So the money raised after expenses would be used for that reason.
Sponsorship are something I'd like to dig into a little bit. How do you go about securing sponsors, and how important are they to helping the team cover expenses?
It's a door to door push that we do. It's all trying to go in to local businesses and make the right connections and trying to turn those connections into sponsorship dollars. Sponsorship at the end of the day are integral part of any team who wants to try and stay afloat in any sport. Unless you have a multi-billionaire backing you you need to hit the streets and try and rake in some sponsorship dollars.
Had not really considered the door to door side of things when it comes to looking for sponsorship. Of course, the bigger the team gets and the better you do at marketing to get people to attend, the better off you'll be in showing value to a potential sponsor. What do you typically do to try and market the team to fans, and what has worked best for you so far?
We've done a few Facebook ads and flyers throughout the surrounding areas and that seemed to work well. Otherwise we've gone to youth clubs and schools and given the kids free tickets to get them out to a game. That has also worked for us as then their parents still have to pay the $5 entry fee.
This year we've hear rumblings that some 18-30 year olds have become quite interested in the team and checking us out so we've started to change our strategy away from families and more to try and get that die hard soccer demo to create a unique atmosphere to sports in Rhode Island.
You hear a lot about that 18 to 30 demographic, especially in sports. What are you going to try and do to help draw them in, especially since they are most likely to start a supporters group?
We are looking to partner with local bars and when they come in to ask them what their wants and needs are, really try to give them what they want
When you look at other teams in the NPSL, is there any team that you must hope to be able to emulate in Rhode Island in terms of fan engagement, attendance and support?
For me the idea is Detroit City FC hands down. What they do in the community and how the fans help the club is incredible.
What are you really hoping to accomplish in 2016 to consider this season a reasonable success? I've always been interested in figuring out what type of goals teams lay out to attempt and achieve from year to year.
In years past we've always based it on results. Yes we would still like to finish in the top 4 but for me it's more off field goals. We want to end the year with a sell out crowd which for us is 500 people in the stands. We want to hold at least 5 free clinics for underprivileged communities and we want to get a few of our players into college so they can continue their education while doing what they love.
That would be a very successful year for me. I'd like at the end of the year to be able to walk down a street in my Rhode Island Reds t-shirt and for people to say "hey, I know that team!"
Sounds like this year is going to be more focused on community involvement then?
Absolutely. Trying to break into a market where there's 5 major sports teams and countless semi-pro sports teams is difficult and it's the community involvement that's going to set us apart and get us noticed. Facebook is a great tool for outreach but those like on our game photos don't necessarily translate into butts in the seats.
There's the issue. Turning likes into ticket sales. Maybe something along the lines of 'Like this photo, get a ticket discount' would be a good idea. You can steal that idea if you want. Ultimately though, what do you think some of the issues are that continue to limit the appeal of soccer in the US to more casual fans?
I probably will. Thank you!
I think right off the bat the biggest issue is that Americans want to be the best at everything and we aren't when it comes to soccer. Specifically men's soccer which, I don't mean to offend anyone, has a more global appeal than women's soccer. Until the USMNT win a world cup and produce their own Ronaldo/Messi I don't think it will ever appeal to the masses here.
Secondly, there's the whole "soccer is boring" argument for people in the USA. And that is something that I don't think will ever change. People like to go to football and baseball games so that they can drink beers and talk with their friends. Watching the game for a lot of people is secondary and if you miss one big thing chances are there will be something else just as exciting that will happen in time. With soccer the game is the primary reason you are there. You have to be glued to the game for pretty much the whole time because if you miss a goal, chances are their high not be another one. We are a Snapchat/timeline society in the USA. We want to pay attention when we want to pay attention but with soccer you need to stay focused the whole time.
There's a lot of other things I can think of but I don't want to inundate you with text.
Let's get into some simpler stuff. Favorite player. One past, one present.
First player I fell in love with was Luis Figo. Favorite player currently is Adrien from Sporting CP.
I'll be straight. 1, I did not ever get to see Luis Figo play and 2, I do not know Adrien is. But that's really not here or there. What team and league do you enjoy watching the most?
Adrien isn't really a household name anyway. I just happened to meet him one day when we were both teenagers and he was a really cool down to earth individual. Now he's the captain for my favorite team Sporting Clube de Portugal. Although Sporting is my favorite team I would have to say I enjoy the English Premiere League the most.
Really? I'd say that's a pretty good way to discover your favorite player though. Do you have a favorite soccer book and or podcast you would recommend to my readers?
Jose Mourinho is my idol so any biography about him or "The Special One: Wit and Wisdom of Jose Mourinho" It's all Mourinho quotes so it's pretty hilarious. Other than anything Mourinho I loved Soccernomics by Simon Kuper, Seeing Red by Graham Poll, and the Alex Ferguson Autobiography.
But if anyone is reading your blog that is trying to enhance the marketing of their team I highly suggest "Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World" by Gary Vaynerchuk. It's helped me a lot in my day job as well as soccer.
I'm interested in the Vaynerchuk book. Might need to check that one out for myself. Where can people find out more about yourself, and more about the Rhode Island Reds?
You can find out more about us at http://www.RIRedsFC.com
Last question, want to give you a nice soapbox to stand on. What would you like to say to the people reading this about why they should get out and support the lower levels of American Soccer?
The only way to grow soccer is to support soccer and that starts with your local clubs. Chances are that if you're reading this blog then you're a soccer fan. So it's your job to try and convince as many people to get out and support your local team. Support through the purchase of tickets and merch helps grown these lower level clubs. With the growth of these clubs we will be able to grow the game in this country and really find the next breakout star soccer player. The only way the USMNT wins a world cup with homegrown players is with the growth of lower level soccer. Messi, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Zidane all started somewhere so you never know who could be playing on these lower level teams just waiting to be seen. Get out and support because you can make a difference and bring this sport to a whole new level.
Excellent closing. Jonathan, thanks for taking the time to do this with me. Remember, if you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, I'd encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. And if you'd like to read these interviews before everyone else, and make sure you aren't missing anything, click here and sign up for the newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.
Read Part 1 of 'Sponsorship and Ticket Sales'