We are screaming! We are tweeting! We are watching … soccer???? Yes, the FIFA World Cup has captured America’s attention as the USA has emerged from the most difficult group in the first round to proceed to the "knockout" round. Why the interest? Will it last? For those of us in Indianapolis, the answer to the last question will depend on our own Indy Eleven.
Our country is torn apart by so many different issues and perceptions that when something comes along that we can all unite behind, well, that becomes special. In addition to being known for rooting for the underdog, Americans like to come together to cheer and support something as a group. The success of the USA team has given us that opportunity. I know some disagree with me. Some people claim soccer is a silly or boring sport. They, of course, are entitled to their opinion. But they are wrong. As with any sport, it’s not exciting until you understand what is going on. You don’t have to be an expert, but as we watch the matches and listen to the announcers, a new understanding of the world’s most popular sport has come to the "uninitiated" American public. And we have responded enthusiastically. During this past Thursday’s noon match, which determined if we would advance to the next round, ESPN’s Live Stream of the USA-Germany match crashed due to the overload, the coach of the USA team tweeted out an ‘excuse note’ for employees (reminding me a bit of Juan Epstein on Welcome Back, Kotter. You fellow "old people" will understand the reference), and the governor of New York gave state workers an extended lunch break so they could watch the match. Yes, we were and are enthralled.
So, will this enthusiasm for soccer continue here in the U.S.? It will as long as team USA stays in the tournament. After that? Probably not; at least not in the country as a whole. However, it may continue to build in the Indianapolis area if Indy Eleven continues to play their cards right. Many questioned the wisdom of a new team in an already sports-crazed area, but anyone who has gone to an Indy Eleven game has found a fun, exhilarating family experience that will appeal to the Indianapolis community. And now with the attention to the World Cup, the fan base is a bit more educated about the game. Indy Eleven needs to build on this increased awareness and enthusiasm. They are doing a great job so far! Their players and mascot have been attending viewing parties in communities all over the Central Indiana area including hosting a block party for Tuesday’s match. They are using Social Media to keep the interest going. They are guest speakers at numerous private events. They are visible and audible in our community. The interest is there; Indy Eleven is building on that interest. They are providing great entertainment and just need to start getting some wins. I think we will see soccer continue to become more prominent in the Indianapolis area.
So what is the takeaway? National teams will get people to pay attention. Good marketing will help to get people in the seats. The customer experience will keep them there. So far, Indy Eleven is excelling at these areas. Let’s support them and keep the enthusiasm and momentum building! See you at the match!