MLS and Audi Partner With Apple, IHG & CELSIUS to Engage Young Fans

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The convergence of sports and business innovation is nowhere more evident than in Major League Soccer’s strategic partnerships with leading brands like Apple, IHG, Audi, and CELSIUS.

These collaborations aim to revolutionise how fans engage with the sport, focusing on creating real-life experiences that resonate with the younger demographics. This article delves into the various tactics MLS and its partners are employing to connect with fans, enhance their experiences, and foster deeper brand relationships through innovative engagement strategies.

Major League Soccer’s Approach to IRL Fan Engagement: Jennifer Cramer’s Insight on Current Trends

As we shift away from pandemic-induced digital saturation, MLS is seizing the opportunity to engage fans through physical experiences and retail activations. Jennifer Cramer, Executive Vice President of Partnership Marketing for MLS, highlights a cultural shift towards in-person experiences, emphasising that consumers are eager for tangible, memorable interactions.

The trend is clear: people want to be part of something larger than themselves, experiencing life beyond digital screens.

“People are sick of being home. Now it’s a seen and be seen culture. What can I experience? What can I do?,” Cramer said.

Point-of-Sale Strategies: Revival of Retail Activations

“We’ve not seen this level of retail activation in years, with the MLS appearing in over 100,000 point-of-sale displays at Walmart, Publix, and other retailers,” Cramer noted.

Point-of-sale (POS) marketing has made a significant comeback, with MLS leveraging over 100,000 retail displays across major stores like Walmart and Publix. Brands associated with MLS, such as P&G, Campbell’s, and CELSIUS, are not just passively placing products but are creating interactive fan experiences right at the retail outlets. This strategy not only enhances visibility but also allows fans to physically engage with the products, strengthening brand loyalty.

With the involvement of global icons like Apple and Messi, alongside the excitement surrounding the coming World Cup, retailers have optimised the placement of MLS partner products.

These strategic shelf spaces aim to harness the energy, excitement, and passion surrounding the soccer scene. The point-of-sale displays leverage the appealing MLS marks, attracting attention from shoppers and thereby enhancing customer preference and driving purchases.

CELSIUS Activation Events: Walmart Parking Lot Pop-ups

CELSIUS is setting an example by hosting pop-up events in Walmart parking lots over 30 weeks. These events feature a variety of engaging activities such as a foosball lounge, games, and MLS Cup Championship Trophy photo opportunities. The initiative is designed to provide a unique brand experience directly to consumers, further fuelled by occasional player appearances that draw in crowds and enhance fan interactions.

Digital and Social Media Strategies: Streaming and Content Innovation

Understanding the shifting media consumption habits, MLS was proactive in partnering with Apple for distributing game content. This move catives to the ‘cord-nevers’—young viewers who have never subscribed to traditional cable services. Nearly two-thirds of the 18-34 demographic are reached through this channel, highlighting the effectiveness of streaming as a primary mode of sports consumption.

Engaging the Next Generation

Social media remains a critical component of MLS’s strategy to engage younger audiences. Through a robust partnership with TikTok, MLS manages a content hub that aligns with trending topics, ensuring the league remains relevant and engaging. Additionally, the MLS creator network focuses on club-specific content, giving fans an insider look at their favorite teams, enhancing connection and loyalty.

Audience Insights and Data: Deep Dive Into Fan Demographics

Recent studies involving over 55,000 fans from five MLS teams reveal significant insights into the fan base. The data shows that fans under 40 are predominantly active on social platforms like Instagram and TikTok, with a considerable following also on traditional platforms like X and Facebook. This information guides MLS’s engagement strategies, tailoring content and interactions to where the fans are most active.

Partnership Synergies

Audi has redefined its partnership with MLS through the ‘Audi Goals Drive Progress’ initiative, which now includes a series titled “Celebrating Impact.” This program highlights MLS players’ contributions to their communities, emphasising the positive impact these athletes have beyond the field.

Audi’s commitment extends to a $5 million fund supporting MLS academies and player-chosen charity causes, showcasing a partnership that goes beyond mere sponsorship and into genuine support for the sport’s growth.

Authentic Engagement: Pitfalls to Avoid

Inauthentic engagements can detract from brand credibility and alienate fans. MLS stresses the importance of brands being true to the soccer culture rather than applying generic marketing strategies used in other sports. The league encourages partners to utilise all available assets creatively and authentically, enhancing genuine connections with the fans.

The IHG Experience: Exclusive VIP Treatments

IHG maximises its partnership by offering unique experiences such as behind-the-scenes match access and influencer gatherings at upscale properties. These initiatives not only provide exclusive content but also encourage guests to actively promote the MLS and IHG brands, further amplifying the reach and impact of these engagements.

Performance Measurement: Importance of Metrics and Research

Evaluating the success of these partnerships is crucial, and MLS utilises external, third-party sources to measure outcomes effectively. Transparent communication of KPIs ensures both the league and its partners are aligned in their goals, facilitating continuous improvement and adaptation to maximise impact.

This collaboration between MLS and Audi, alongside major brands aims to enhance the fan experience through innovative technology, exclusive travel perks, and unique beverage offerings at games. If you want to know more about MLS, upcoming games, and betting odds, visit Ohio sportsbooks to learn more. Discover how these brands are coming together to revolutionise the soccer experience for a new generation of enthusiasts.

Closing Thoughts

As Major League Soccer continues to innovate in fan engagement, partnerships with iconic brands like Apple, CELSIUS, and Messi highlight a strategic pivot towards immersive, real-world experiences. These collaborations not only amplify fan excitement but also deepen the consumer connection through hands-on interactions and personalised encounters at retail locations and special events.

As we look to the future, the evolution of these initiatives is set to redefine the sports marketing landscape, providing fans not just with a spectator experience, but with memorable moments that resonate well beyond the game. This dynamic approach promises to keep MLS at the forefront of sports innovation.

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