When a Brazilian ownership group purchased the Fort Lauderdale Strikers earlier this year, they promised to class the place up, add some buzz, and bring some recognition to the constantly-battling-to-stay-relevant NASL team.
Damn if they didn't deliver on that promise quickly.
Brazilian soccer legend and two-time World Cup champion Ronaldo joined the Fort Lauderdale Strikers ownership group last week, and people took notice -- even those who weren't one-hundred-percent sure the Fort Lauderdale Strikers still existed.
So in a sense, mission accomplished, people took notice; Ronaldo is a name. Let's be serious, however -- people will forget about the Strikers tomorrow if they don't continue to get their name in the news.
The Florida Panthers attendance this season has been putrid. The Miami Marlins continue to rank near the bottom of the MLB in attendance, even after building a brand-spanking-new state-of-the-art stadium. Even the Heat and Dolphins struggle at times when the team is struggling.
So how in the world can the Strikers capture a tiny piece of the South Florida entertainment dollar market? It won't be easy, but here are some ideas.
5. Move Strikers games from of Lockhart Stadium to a much nicer facility, such as FAU Stadium.
Biggest problem here: Lockhart Stadium is just not a place you are going to draw new and excited fans to; it's just not going to happen. The Strikers could explore moving to a place like FAU Stadium, located on the FAU campus in Boca Raton, or a similar facility of that nature that is capable of seating 5,000 or so fans. FAU Stadium seats 30,000 people, has hosted games such as USA vs. Honduras recently, and is an area that is used to hosting sports events much larger than a Strikers game, so it could work.
4. Utilize and involve Ronaldo's business partners, like UFC legend Anderson Silva
Ronaldo co-owns a Brazil-based agency with mixed martial artist Anderson Silva, who is nearing the end of his fighting career in the UFC, which means soon he will have lots of time to participate in different projects.
The UFC has notoriously refused to send its events to South Florida due to the lack of ticket sales, so why not draw in a segment of that crowd with events and appearance from some of their favorite fighters? Rafael Nadal, UFC champion Junior Cigano and Everton Ribeiro, a midfielder for Cruzeiro, also have stakes in Ronaldo's agency; so their is opportunities to capitalize on some of those people's popularity.
3. Spend the money to sponsor and uniform a youth soccer team in every league in South Florida
When it comes down to it, soccer is most popular with the kids in South Florida, so get their attention and the parents will follow. When I was a kid all my soccer teams were sponsored by something boring like "Bob's Plantation Plumbing", but my baseball teams were always named after a real MLB team; and that made a lot of kids actual fans of that team. If a kid plays for the Strikers, they are interested in the real Strikers, and their interest is the quickest way to their parents wallets.
I can't imagine it's that expensive to outfit a few hundred South Florida U-10 girls soccer teams, especially for a guy like Ronaldo who has had ties to companies like Nike over his career. It would be a wise and worthwhile investment, if you ask me.
— FtLauderdaleStrikers (@FTLStrikers) December 15, 2014
2. Social Media. Use it.
As I mentioned, Ronaldo has many famous business partners and friends; so make the Strikers known for their viral videos and new edge marketing strategies. When you say Fort Lauderdale Strikers to someone right now, they think "old", so do a good job of marketing what's new, and let people see they don't have to wait for the Miami MLS team to get here to enjoy a good soccer match.
The Atlanta Hawks do a great job of this in the NBA, they are known for "being with the times"; the Strikers could do their league and themselves a big favor if they stick out places on like Twitter or Instagram.
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1. Have Ronaldo be very much involved, like he has promised.
""I will be very involved with the management of the team and have already started to make introductions that will certainly help us to turn the Strikers into a global powerhouse. There are no doubts that the beautiful game is growing exponentially in the U.S., and I guarantee you that the NASL will play a key role in the rise of professional soccer here," Ronaldo said when the announcement was made that he would join the teams ownership; easier said than done.
If the Strikers are to succeed in South Florida they will need every ounce of Ronaldo's cache, just as the MLS Miami franchise will rely upon Beckham's. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers have an opportunity to increase their popularity in South Florida, as well as the game of soccer; but it will take a lot of creativity, and much involvement from Ronaldo.