The audience you are not getting because you are focused on your own niche

Here is the ugly truth about American soccer. It is something kids DO, not who they are. Yet many soccer clubs and tournaments focus their marketing and message around the assumption that soccer is central to the players lives and that everything else is ancillary or inconsequential.

The ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) produced the video below for their annual meeting just this past weekend. (It runs a little long, the movie beats you up a little with the message, but pay attention to the subtitles. They are really small, but perhaps the most important part of the whole piece.)

I get it; trade associations connect people together and that was the obvious point. But, the not so obvious point is that all these people who are working at trade associations during the day are spending their nights and weekends with their true passion; music.

We have seen this kind of thing before, but usually the talent is mediocre. But, these folks are darn good! The ASAE not only had the criterion of involving their members, but that the member had to have a high level of skill, proficiency and passion. Brilliant!

What does a harmonica have to do with biodiesel? Nothing except for Joe Jobe. Or a guitar with concrete or paint? For Joe Vickers and Phil Bour, the combination make perfect sense. Railroads and drum kits? Michael Fore makes it work. He probably taps out routines on his desk, driving his co-workers crazy. And there is no hiding the rapture Mike Skiados (ASAE) feels when he plays his guitar.

The Disney movie High School Musical (HSM) was a similar deafening intervention cry from kids, yet few adults paid attention to the underlying message, mostly dismissing it as bubble-gum entertainment. But the kids got it and that is what made the movie “stick.”

Social Media like Facebook gets this concept by allowing members to establish a core identity and then add interests and groups to them. More specialized sites like Meet the Boss, various Ning sites and sites like don’t. Neither do “gardens of brands” like Skittles or Ford. In their world, there is no room for “other interests” and no way to connect the person with them. (As an aside, the WSJ had an interesting article on fans. Worth a read… after you are done with this post and have commented/tweeted, of course.)

Anyone who doesn’t know me is surprised that among my passionate interests are newspapers, old typewriters, literature, photography, coffee, typography, dogs and harmonicas. Computers and soccer come in almost last on the list. Internet is the way I make a living and it is imperative I am knowledgeable and skilled in it, but it is not my passion. In their world, I develop Web-based properties therefore I must be a geek and only care about the latest technology. Sorry. Technology is a tool; no more, no less.

For sports organizations, the random connections that social media reveals is like gold. How many times have you approached a large brand for a sponsorship and gotten, “What does our brand/product have to do with soccer?” If you dig deeper into the social media networks like Facebook, you may well have a stronger answer. Your model is HSM and the ASAE video.

Our advice: Find the connections. The more random and strange, the better. Watch the touchlines and the space between games more intently than the games themselves at your next tournament. What are the kids doing? What are their parents doing? How many questions do your get about a particular topic? Why? Ask questions, observe behaviors. Your next sponsor may be in the non-soccer parts of the game that your sponsor’s target audience is most passionate about.

Note: This post was originally intended for just TourneyCentral, but because the medium here is also the message, we posted this on almost every brand we own. Dogs and soccer? Coffee and soccer? Marketing and soccer? Yeah, it all fits when you start looking hard enough. And, thank you Cindy Butts for the inspiration.