Op-Ed \ Steve Winter
McSoccerfest brings families, fun to Maryland suburbs.
| McSoccerfest featured 450 youth and adult teams. Throw in referees, families and volunteers, and 10,000 attended the weekend event.
-- Photos by Margaret Shepard --
COLUMBIA, Md. (Friday, August 3, 2007) -- When it comes to targeting a mainstream message to an appropriate, receptive and responsive audience, how can one 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.
And no one has done a better job recognizing that trend than 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 450-team youth and adult participant soccer tournament and festival held recently here in Columbia, an affluent bedroom community located midway between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. The 2007 event 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.
"The McDonald's Family Restaurants of Greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are committed to providing many different types of programs for the communities in which they serve," stated Bob Palmer, McDonald's marketing director for the Baltimore-Washington Region. "McSoccerfest is an opportunity for the local owner\operators to bring members of their community together in a fun, energetic atmosphere, while educating them about balanced, active lifestyles, healthy food options, and food quality."
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 enjoyed the unique opportunity to target its marketing, product and promotional message in a purely controlled environment.
And boy did they ever 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," said Mark Furr, a McDonald's owner\operator. "Events like McSoccerfest enable us to showcase the variety of quality products we have on our menu at McDonald's."
| McSoccerfest recently held its 14th annual event in Columbia, Md.
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 encouraged its customers to touch, feel and experience the brand at various levels for the weekend. And the fact that dozens of winning team photographs, flanked by the company icon, Ronald McDonald, made their way into community media served only to further accentuate that message.
Developed initially as a way for the Washington, D.C. McDonald's Cooperative to capitalize on the company's 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 four-on-four 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 played alongside live appearances from pro soccer stars, instructional clinics, soccer video game stations, and more to create a venue where something was always happening
And then there was the competition. While the tournament crowned more than 75 different champions in age and ability levels ranging from under-6 to Adult Masters, the tournament was created to appeal as much to recreational and pickup teams as it was to the area's elite National Capital Soccer League (NCSL) and Washington Area Girls Soccer League (WAGS) athlete.
"And therein lies the beauty of McDonald's McSoccerfest," stated Palmer. "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, the McSoccerfest tournament director, 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 serves as the event management team for McSoccerfest. For additional information, contact BWF at (703) 534-4600 or visit www.specialevent.com.
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