Friday, October 7, 2011

What Sporting Club May Become

When I first heard about the idea behind Sporting Club and the rebranding of the Wizards to Sporting Kansas City, I was really excited about all the potential.  So far the front office has done a good job of really concentrating on the team and the stadium, which is very smart since that is the leading brand.  But it has also left other people wondering if there is really more to the grand idea of an umbrella athletic organization.  Let's look at what Sporting Club has laid out for us so far.

Kansas City Blues Rugby Club: Announced in May 2011, this affiliation is only recently starting to gain more attention with the planned rugby match after the last regular season MLS match against the New York Red Bulls. Officially they are a founding member of the Sporting Club Network.  This connection may help get larger rugby tournaments and potentially international draws to Kansas City, which may help grow the sport as they get ready to be in the 2016 Olympics.  Will Soccer fans embrace Rugby?  Chances are good especially if it is given a grand stage like LSP.

Turner MotorSports (NASCAR Nationwide Series) While right now this seems to be a one-time cross promotion it does give a glimpse in how creative Sporting Club is willing to be in finding cross-promotion that works.  Sporting Kansas City has a one-time sponsorship of a car and driver in the 2nd tier race (Nationwide) at the Kansas Speedway.  Obviously this is playing to the home crowd, so I wonder if they will have a booth at race weekend selling season tickets, or signing people up for free memberships to Sporting Club.It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future for any local races, but with NASCAR rides hurting for sponsorships with the tough exonomy, this may be a great buy!  The estimated cost for a one-race primary sponsorship in the NNS is $25-50,000.

Sporting Kansas City Juniors Affiliates Program: Working to develop a good pipeline of players in addition to getting out in the soccer community this seems like a no-brainer.  This Academy/Development approach can help find more home grown players and is being modeled successfully in Europe already, as well as some MLS teams.

Speculative Potential

None of this is inside information, all speculation, but what could Sporting Club become...

Hockey Team: Long shot...but the Sprint Center is still lacking that Sports Anchor that would make the Power and Light district more successful.  The NHL has always said it wants local owners.  But this is probably not going to happen.  Maybe a potential affiliation with the Missouri Mavericks of the CHL, but they have already partnered with the Kansas City Command of the Arena Football League

Junior Hockey Teams: What may be less risky but still beneficial to community outreach and loyalty building is getting Sporting Club to partner with some of the junior hockey programs like the Kansas City Stars.  With the changing of Pepsi Ice into an indoor soccer facility there is a lack of sheets of ice in the area.  A big sponsorship and promotion of a winter sport may help keep Sporting Club first of mind all year round.  Even if the affiliation helped some with travel or equipment costs that would go a long way to reaching a demographic that could easily turn into a soccer fan (says the hockey fan writing this post).

Basketball: Probably not an NBA team (see the hockey team section above), but maybe a D-league team that plays in an arena eventually built on land near LiveSTRONG? (With a sheet of ice) or the Independence Center?  Some guy named Greg Heineman (sounds familiar...) owns the Sioux Falls Skyforce.  I think this is a good possibility in the near future pending NBA contract disputes of course.  I think WNBA is less likely without the presence of a NBA team and given the competing schedules with MLS.

Baseball: Could Sporting Club align more with the T-bones and work some effective cross-promotions that helps both teams?  Maybe but doubtful given the competing schedules.  But I could see a once a year deal to pair up tickets and food for a baseball/soccer double header.  Just make it a day out at Village West. Would the T-Bones ever become part of the Sporting Club network formally? Probably not.

Individual Athletes: I think this is the lowest risk, highest gain of all the choices.  This is really the model that Red Bull has done very well with.  By sponsoring individual athletes/personalities in various niche sports with passionate followings and a taste for the extreme it makes for high YouTube views and free advertising for Red Bull drinks.  But what could this do for Sporting Club, since it really isn't selling a product like Red Bull?  Well it could draw even more attention to Sporting Kansas City, gaining fans all around the world and not just Kansas City.  Eventually it becomes a recognized brand not for any product it sells, but for quality athletes who want the exposure that Sporting Club could provide for them.  In the beginning, there may be need for payment of the athletes to wear Sporting Club gear*/logos, but if the network exposure is built well enough, you could get athletes asking to be a part of the club without any compensation other than exposure.

Sean Malto
Some local athletes to consider: 8-year old skateborder Evan DohertySkateborder Sean Malto Tennis player and US Open Mixed Doubles champ Jack Sock, are three that come to mind that have been featured in the news lately.  I am sure there are other great runners, mountain bikers, drivers, base jumpers, volleyball players, gymnasts, and more in the area that could benefit from more exposure in the Sporting Club network. We just have to go out and find them. If you know of any comment here!

*Since Sporting Club/On Goal is technically a different trademark from Sporting Kansas City I presume they would not have to partner with just adidas and they could partner with Under Armor, Nike, reebok, whomever they choose.

Tennis: Maybe the Kansas City Explorers?  Although they also play in the summer against the MLS season, they have such a short season (2 weeks) it could work. This could be potentially open to rebranding as well.  Getting some soccer fans down to Barney Allis plaza or maybe putting a tennis court on the LiveSTRONG pitch might be fun.  Although no chanting during the game. Shhh!!  Maybe partner with Jack Sock on the team.  Buy local!


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