Whitecaps Marketing: New Angles, Sans Curves


What does Major League Soccer have in common with the NFL, muscle cars, and UFC? Well, it turns out that the answer is - wait for it... nothing! That's right, nada.

Now before you dismiss me as a cretin yet again, hear me out, and follow the train of thought. It just might take you to an exotic destination - or knowing me, more likely than not it'll deposit you in some abandoned siding outside Brandon, Manitoba. Read on at your own peril.

Name an NFL franchise that doesn't have hot looking cheerleaders (ok, aside from Green Bay). Have you ever seen a cherry red '68 Camaro RS SS or a sunburst orange '70 'Cuda that Mopar didn't think looked that much better with a bikini-clad babe draped across the hood, or clutching an air-wrench in front of? And UFC. They've never been slow on the uptake, as their endless supply of stunning ring girls will attest to.

Lest I fall under the long, spiked heel of those who'd call me sexist, I really wonder if Nespresso would have racked up even a quarter of their sales without the help of a certain George Clooney.

Like it or not, sex sells. Stunningly well. Every time. Hell, I spent my formative teen years hanging around JC Penny hoping to run into Jaclyn Smith, well, at least I would have if Vancouver had a JC Penny. There are some who argue that while sexuality in advertising might be effective, its application is inexcusable as it's inappropriate, twisted, abhorrent, and misogynistic. Come again?

All human beings (well, most of us) have an interest in sex, which happily ensures that we have managed to carry on a species, just to name one of the benefits. Denying this attraction and interest, or reviling it as something base is what's truly repressive - particularly if you're an advertising exec.

Look, if a woman's attractive, most guys will be paying attention regardless of whether she's wearing a Whitecaps jersey or a Chivas kit - perhaps not if she's in Sounders gear. Oddly enough, men seem drawn to attractive members of the opposite gender, regardless of if it's in the context of a pitch or not.

This all leads me back to spring 2011, and the Vancouver Whitecaps' wonderfully alluring "Where will you be...?" marketing campaign, which remains in my opinion, the most memorable piece of Canadian sports advertising I've seen in 40+ years - despite the dubious claims from some quarters that it somehow objectified women, and the kind of ridiculous backpedalling from Bell that would have scouts drooling at the MLS combine.

Unfortunately, the Whitecaps' marketing department has since then failed to match the franchise's on-field success in 2012. That original MLS kickoff campaign captured the public's imagination, as well as the spirit and passion of being an ardent fan. The Whitecaps' official Youtube channel currently features 898 videos. The vast majority have fewer than one or two thousand views, with the feature on the motion capture visit to EA being somewhat of an outlier at 51,000 views. The tastefully seductive Whitecaps Kit Model video: 465,000 views - and still counting.

Now, do I expect the Southsiders end zone at B.C. Place to be crammed with air-brushed soccer sirens? Hell no. In fact, I spent a good chunk of time at the Whitecaps' U-23 PDL match vs the Highlanders on Sunday bookended by a husky dude in a 3rd kit Teibert jersey, and another guy who looks like he's trying out for a Bollywood version of ZZ Top.

Point is, most people are able to appreciate beauty and artistry -- whether it's played out on the pitch or off it -- without being corrupted. The Whitecaps were onto a big thing with their marketing as they launched themselves head-first into the MLS fray in 2011, but that now appears to be a "one and done" measure.

Thanks to youth soccer coach Geoff Hansen for drawing my attention to a new Whitecaps initiative in partnership with Chevron. Drop by and pick up a sheet of Whitecaps player cards - while supplies last (no purchase necessary).

The only problem with this campaign is that it appears to be some kind of Black Ops scenario. Try Googling "Whitecaps + Chevron", you'll find squat. The station I went to had no POS materials about the campaign. No sign, no poster, no display of any kind. At only one of their 10 or so pumps did I find a sign, not much bigger than a leaflet. This promotion is a little short on....well, promotion.

Hmm...I wonder if this Whitecaps poster would help?

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