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Why College Football Is Studying Major League Soccer

Thursday, August 21, 2014   (0 Comments)
Wall Street Journal (07/17/14) Cohen, Ben

Erosion in attendance at college football games has spurred the Southeastern Conference to study Major League Soccer (MLS) for insights on how to reverse the decline by offering a more engaging game experience. "They're all dealing with the same issues: ticket sales going down and a difficulty getting students to come early and stay late," says Sporting Kansas City CEO Robb Heinenman. Pac-12 officials have signed a contract with Sporting KC spinoff consulting firm Sporting Innovations to discreetly reshape the way college football teams operate. "They know what their soccer fans want," says Pac-12's Danette Leighton. Commonalities between college football fans and MLS fans include a similarity in age, according to Heinenman. MLS executives think their league's prestige forced them to creatively address attendance problems before they hit larger sports such as college football and the National Football League. The Portland Timbers, for example, enhanced fan engagement by making the in-game experience reflect the host city. Sporting KC collects data on all fans via Sporting Innovations technology, which they provide to college clients. Heinenman says they currently have approximately 250,000 profiles of game-attending fans, including data such as when, where, and how they bought tickets, what time they arrived at games, and who they sat near. Sporting KC offers perks to fans who provide this information, such as paying for them to attend road games and hosting social events.

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