Monday, June 13, 2011

Your RBNY Marketing FAIL of the Week

Vettel: Can He Play Left Back?
When the Red Bulls official Twitter account began circulating a rumor last week that a mystery trialist from Germany would be arriving to train with the team on Monday, it started the inevitable round of speculation among hardcore fans. Klose? Frings? Ballack? Some other less high profile player in the Joel Lindpere/Jan Gunnar Solli mode? God knows RBNY could use reinforcements in a few key areas (notably fullback), with so many regulars missing on Gold Cup duty and the team struggling for results.

Over the weekend, the speculation only intensified. So when the news broke this morning that the mystery "trialist" was none other than Red Bull Formula 1 racer Sebastian Vettel, supporters could be excused for venting their outrage at what essentially turned out to be another cheap PR stunt. Someone should have had a quiet word with the party responsible for the Vettel incident when it was apparent that fans were taking it seriously.  Instead, once again supporters have had their chains yanked, and they're - understandably - starting to get a little sore. The Vettel incident brought back bad memories, including the acid flashback that was the Running of the Bulls (don't ask).

Nobody can fault Red Bull for its massive investment in players and what is still the league's best stadium (sorry, Kansas City), but their continued tone-deafness when it comes to marketing remains troubling. Rather than investing in traditional media or finding other creative ways to build bridges to New York area soccer fans, the organization has relied on its stable of athletes and associated gimmickry to promote the team. If it's not Vettel at practice then there's a motorcyclist or driver doing donuts outside the stadium. The problem isn't that these cross-promotional stunts are wrong in and of themselves - it is cool that they have the muscle to get someone like Vettel out to Montclair. The problem is that they represent nearly the entirety of the RBNY marketing budget at the moment.

Hopefully the arrival of Chris Heck at the club's new president of business operations will bring about some changes in the way the club approaches marketing. First, they need to start listening better if they're going to get anywhere. I won't hold my breath.
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