One Thing Every Startup Can Learn From New York’s Newest Sports Club

Marketing Campaigns in NYC

When a startup idea has been decided upon, most entrepreneurs focus their efforts on building out that idea, rather than pre-emptively marketing it.

Makes sense, right? I mean, you don’t want to waste your energy telling people about something that hasn’t been finished yet….

Wrong!

The time prior to a product being released provides a great opportunity to begin getting your name out – and what better inspiration than a football club that doesn’t yet have enough players to field a team!

New York City Football Club (NYCFC) has yet to officially start playing, but is already pushing their marketing efforts to the max in a way from which any business can learn.

Although NYCFC certainly have a large pool of finances that a startup may not, the real lesson here is about the timing of their marketing.

A Little Bit About NYCFC
As of August 17th 2014, NYCFC have six players. That’s right, six. My Tuesday night soccer side has a larger team!

However, despite not having a finished product, NYCFC are marketing at such a pace that they look likely to have a larger backing than their established crosstown rivals, New York Red Bulls.

NYCFC were announced as the 20th MLS franchise in May of 2013, but will not begin their foray into the MLS until March of 2015.

NYCFC’s Marketing Efforts
Over the course of the last few months, NYCFC have been everywhere. Here are just some of the marketing campaigns they’ve run:

  • Subway advertisements
  • Phone booth advertisements
  • Building elevator advertisements
  • Food court table advertisements
  • Google Advertisements
  • Aggressive Social Media efforts [Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit page, Tumblr]
  • Providing strong assistance to local Supporter’s Groups, like The Third Rail
  • PR campaigns surrounding new player signings

2014-07-17 18.37.05

Image: One of the NYCFC advertisements in Manhattan, New York

You’re probably thinking that most clubs would try to build some basic presence before they launch. While this may be true, it is the intensity of NYCFC’s efforts that has really impressed me. Even if you take away the expensive ads on public transportation and the streets of New York, NYCFC already have a Twitter presence larger than the New York Red Bulls, who have been in the city for 19 years*, while the newcomers have “been around” for just 15 months.

nycfc-redbulls-twitter

Twitter Presence: NY Red Bulls vs NYCFC as of August 17th, 2014.
Image created via Piktochart

NYCFC are not just focused on short-term advertising to grow their following, but are coupling their outbound efforts with a clear investment in grassroots efforts. Take the marquee signings that the club has made over the past few months, such as Frank Lampard and David Villa. Their transfer deals were launched at youth camps and community events rather than flashy press conferences. In addition, the club have teamed up with 8 youth soccer organizations across the five boroughs in the city. This shows a long-term dedication to the city, and is a nice way to balance out the more direct marketing methods of advertising.

The timing of specific campaigns from the club has also been extremely smart. They have spread out major announcements over several months to makes sure the hype doesn’t fade. Deals with their major acquisitions seem to have been finalized way before the actual announcement, but NYCFC held off to choose the right time to capitalize on the news.

Similarly, they took full advantage of the World Cup, which generated a lot of interest for soccer in the States. NYCFC made sure they were highly visible during competition so they could capitalize on a new set of fans. Initiatives included sponsored game viewings, giveaways and more.

But Why Put in So Much Effort So Early?

It all comes down to creating an air of anticipation and expectation.

NYCFC have created a loyal set of followers–”early adopters”, in startup lingo–who are eagerly expecting the arrival of the new team to New York. Once NYCFC actually begin their MLS challenge, they will already have a massive social media following, an active and passionate Supporters club [currently at 600+ members], and have sold thousands of season tickets.

Getting initial excitement around the initial games next year maybe easy to generate, but what NYCFC want is sustainable growth (i.e. loyal fans). Eight months prior to kick-off, they have already made a great start.

nycfc-twitter-redbulls-twitter

Image: Interest levels are increasing.
Note: The jump in June was due to the announcement of the signing of Villa.

As Part of a Startup, What Can I Learn From This?

The key takeaway is that by starting your marketing efforts early, you can create a sense of excitement and anticipation around your product as NYCFC have done here.

Here are some ways in which you can begin building that anticipation:

1. Create a Coming Soon page
Your website or app may not be ready, but you can still drive traffic to your domain and begin capturing emails. Many startups use this technique to give people an idea of what their product is, and to also drive referrals (for example: if you share this page with 5 friends, we will give you early access to the product. Tools for this include Launchrock and untorch to name but two.).
2. Contribute to online discussions:
G+ Communities, Linkedin Groups, Sub-Reddits and other forums and blogs related to your field (Look for 5-10 to focus on at the beginning)
Create valuable content through content marketing:
Blog posts, guest blogs, pdf downloads – in order to build out your emailing list.
3. Build a presence on Social Media:
Starting from a blank slate maybe daunting, but at the minimum, you will be able to work out which of the main social platforms is best suited to your target market [e.g. You may find that time spent on Pinterest is more valuable than Twitter, if your product is very visual]
4. Get Networking:
By attending events and pitching your product, you will be able to get feedback on your pitch and hopefully get some early adopters to follow your story.

There are many more marketing efforts you can try during your product’s early stages, but these are just some that will help to create an air of anticipation, begin to position you as a thought-leader in your space, as well as give you crucial feedback on how to communicate your company correctly and to the right people once it formally begins.

So, if you are due to launch a product soon. Don’t wait around. Get started today.

If you have suggestions on other ways to promote a business or specific websites that are useful before you launch, feel free to add them below in the comments

*The New York Red Bulls were initially founded under the name New York/New Jersey MetroStars


 

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