Saturday night’s match between the Red Bulls and Lionel Messi-led Inter Miami will be more than just your run-of-the-mill soccer match.
For the Red Bulls, it’s a chance to compete in front of a global audience and help build the brand of the club going forward.
The showdown opens up the door to try and grow their footprint beyond just one game.
“The match is important, but also leveraging it so we can maximize the interest and hopefully bring people back to Red Bull Arena for future matches that most likely never been to Red Bull Arena for one of our games,” Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpre told The Post.
It’s a prospect the six lucky teams that host Inter Miami in the second half of the MLS season are strategizing for.
It’s a conversation that is likely being had among MLS teams that aren’t facing Messi as well.
Though MLS commissioner Don Garber told ESPN recently that it was up to the individual clubs to figure out how to utilize Messi’s presence, de Grandpre said he has spoken to his counterparts at other teams.
The Red Bulls general manager explained that the league hosted a series of calls between all the teams that would host Messi.
“We shared our best practices. … And we’ve just sort of come together and worked together to make sure that we leverage this not only for the one match, but both to drive future momentum,” de Grandpre said. “Looking forward, I think it behooves the entire league to work together to make sure that every club who’s hosting [Messi] is doing the best possible job and implementing the best practices from across other clubs.”
Pushing past the abundance of noise in the crowded New York sports scene has been a tough task for the Red Bulls and NYCFC, despite the popular nature of the sport in the area.
But Messi’s arrival could prove to be a game-changer and an opportunity to reexamine the way MLS clubs view themselves, GMR Marketing chief experience officer Max Lenderman said.
GMR Marketing is an experience marketing agency that recently launched a soccer-specific arm GMR FC.
“It’s an opportunity to really take a look at the entire football experience for the team, not just what’s happening on the field and how many tickets are being sold, but how is my football team’s brand participating now in a much bigger game, in a global game,” Lenderman said.
“That incorporates a lot more than just statistics and fan attendance. But street culture, celebrity culture. Huge brands, like multi-million dollar deals being made on this stage, and that’s what Lionel Messi is opening the door for MLS football teams.”
Lenderman noted several different strategies teams could utilize to make the most of Messi’s presence. From an immediate standpoint, he pointed to bundling tickets to the Messi game and making fans have to purchase three or four other games as part of the plan.
The Red Bulls were already implementing that strategy for Saturday’s match after they saw success with it last year when they hosted La Liga club FC Barcelona.
But the larger part of what could help retain the new fans is creating a culture that transcends the play on the field.
“It is a global brand game and you have to treat your fans like a multinational corporation treats its most important customers,” Lenderman explained. “That means you have to create experiences way beyond what happens on the pitch and what happens at the stadium.
“You have to do your brand partnerships, celebrity partnerships, influencers. You have to do interesting campaigns of content.”
He added: “Taking a look at the way that you look at football as an experience rather than a game would be the way that you would get people to start coming back.”
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