New York has a new professional sports captain, and like former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, his home arena is Yankee Stadium. His name is David Villa, and the talented #7 forward is the face of NYCFC/New York City Football Club, a new MLS soccer franchise. The team’s inaugural season began in March, and on Friday night we headed to the Bronx to take in the action.
- Novelty factor: Since it’s the first season, everyone is eager to see how it will turn out. In the meantime, ticket prices (and likely brand deals) are more affordable.
- World-class venue and resources: The team is backed by the sizable resources of the British soccer team Manchester City and the New York Yankees and plays at an elite sports venue.
- Welcoming, wholesome atmosphere: The slogan is “Welcome to the Club” and so far, no controversies have surfaced. The vibe was dynamic, with loud music and enthusiastic Bronx cheering. The pregame show featured the FIFA tradition of pairing young kids with the players.
- International, multigenerational audience: The crowd was comprised of locals and international visitors and a wide age range of soccer fans. The closest comparison that comes to mind from a demographic standpoint is the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
- Worldly players: Team members hail from many continents. Villa played and won the World Cup with the Spanish national team in 2010. The other star player, Mix Diskerud, was born in Norway, and he also plays as a midfielder for the U.S. national team. American goalie Josh Saunders trained with Manchester City.
- Locally inspired logo: The official logo, in navy, light blue white and dark red, features interlocking NYCFC letters, a multicolored version of the Yankees’ logo. The team’s other logo sports bright and light orange letters, like the graffiti tags once painted on subway cars headed for the Bronx.
- Array of sponsors and advertisers: A broad range of brands have signed on so far, such as Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways, Ford Motor Company, Nissan, Wells Fargo, Heineken, Neutrogena, Goya, DKNY and British men’s retailer Ben Sherman, among others.
NYCFC’s record to date has unfolded as a work in progress; on Friday night the team tied Chicago Fire, it needs to win more matches to be a true force in the league. Still, these other factors point to an opportunity, or a win-win, for client entertainment as well as brand and celebrity tie-ins.