Commentary

McD's McFest Targets Suburban Soccer

By Steve Winter

When it comes to targeting a mainstream message to an appropriate, receptive and responsive audience, how can you possibly do any better than the suburban soccer market? With potential customers consisting of affluent families - further enhanced by rapidly emerging ethnic market sub-segments - the nation's soccer community provides the ideal landscape for virtually any organization looking to showcase a product, service or corporate message to a representative cross-section of America.

An example of that trend is the McDonald's Corporation, which for the past 14 years has served as both the founding sponsor and the driving force behind McDonald's McSoccerfest, a 400-team youth and adult 4v4 soccer tournament and festival in Columbia, Md., an affluent bedroom community located midway between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md.

The 2007 event, which took place in June, provided a captive audience of adults and youngsters spanning the age, income and geographic demographics that identically mirror the fast-food restaurant's target customer profile.

With more than 10,000 soccer players, coaches, referees, siblings, parents and grandparents gathered in one place for six-hour chunks of time, McDonald's has the unique opportunity to target its marketing, product and promotional message in a purely controlled environment. And they take advantage of that opportunity.

"Two years ago, we partnered with the local Coca-Cola Bottling Company and helped them unveil Coke Zero at McSoccerFest. Last year, we showcased McDonald's Apple Dippers and Premium Roast Coffee," says Mark Furr, McDonald's owner/operator. "Events like McSoccerfest enable us to showcase the variety of quality products we have on our menu at McDonald's."

Developed initially as a way for the Washington, D.C., McDonald's Cooperative to capitalize on the company's global sponsorship of World Cup USA 1994, McDonald's quickly recognized a potential growth opportunity that transcended the immediate - and instantly recognizable - benefits.

And so, in the years that followed, the company took steps to elevate each succeeding event to an increasingly higher level. What began initially as a purely competitive 4v4 soccer competition ultimately expanded to the point where the weekend serves as a two-day celebration of all things soccer ... and all things McDonald's.

Children's activities such as rock climbing walls, moon bounces and soccer inflatables play alongside live appearances from pro soccer stars, instructional clinics soccer video game stations and more to create a venue where there's always something happening ... courtesy, of course, of your local McDonald's.

What McDonald's has done extremely well is to maximize the opportunities for both product marketing and brand enhancement through a single 48-hour event.

In addition to product sampling, McDonald's created a tournament festival area and an awards stage that encourages their customers to touch, feel and experience the brand at various levels all weekend long. And the fact that dozens of winning team photographs, flanked by brand icon Ronald McDonald, make their way into community newspapers serves only to further accentuate that messaging.

The tournament crowns more than 75 different champions in age and ability levels ranging from U-6 to Adult Masters, and is created to appeal as much to recreational and pickup teams as it is to the elite NCSL and WAGS athlete.

"And therein lies the beauty of McDonald's McSoccerfest," said Bob Palmer, McDonald's Marketing Director for the Baltimore Washington Region. "We want our event to appeal as widely as possible to as diverse an audience within our community as do our restaurants. And through McSoccerfest, we feel we've been able to accomplish precisely that."

Steve Winter is president of Brotman-Winter-Fried Communications (BWF) a Washington, D.C.-area public relations and events management firm that specializes in promotion of sports and soccer-related events. BWF is the event management team and Winter serves as Tournament Director for McSoccerfest. For additional information, contact BWF at (703) 534-4600 or visit http://www.specialevent.com/ .

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