The first time I heard the phrase “grassroots marketing” the image that popped into my mind was a turf field, which is ironic because my first experience with grassroots marketing was with a sports team. Unless you’re a die-hard women’s soccer fan, you probably don’t know what the NWSL is, nor the Boston Breakers. When asked, most people respond “that’s a lacrosse team, right?”, no sir it’s not, or “I think you meant to say WNBA, not NWSL,” nope, I didn’t. To say I get overly excited when someone actually recognizes that I’m talking about women’s professional soccer in America is an understatement.
America is known for its love and loyalty of sports. That can be good and bad. Good for the four major sport leagues: NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL. But bad for the newer leagues and less known sports trying to expand their fan base into the most profitable market. A brand new league with the potential of a huge fan-base is the perfect place for grassroots marketing. So in an age where the closest a 13 year old can get to her favorite athlete is in the nosebleeds for $200, women’s soccer takes a different approach. We go to the people who want to see us.
Over the past summer I’ve gone to so many youth soccer tournaments I’ve lost track. I’ve talked to coaches, parents, and players trying to bribe them with giveaways if they can juggle a ball, a discount if they bring their families to a game, or get them on the field after the game if they bring their team. Doing anything and everything to get the words Boston Breakers to stick in their minds as they’re driving home. I can count on both hands how many times I’ve driven a player to an appearance out in East Whatcha-call-it. Not an appearance where you wait an hour to snap a blurry selfie and have a 15 second conversation. One where kids can have one-on-one conversations with some of the top soccer players in the world and then casually playing a pickup game with them after. You can’t get that experience with any other professional league in America and that’s what we sell people on. We don’t sell them on the talent (the best in the world) or the cheap prices (the price of 2 beers at a Red Sox game), we sell them on the actual conversation that their 13 year old daughter had with Heather O’Reilly. A conversation she will never forget.