This week, the Union hosted Howard Handler, MLS's Chief Marketing Officer, to meet with executives and present to the front office about marketing initiatives around MLS.
Handler held a presentation for Philadelphia Union front office staff members, where he discussed how the league has been successful, and where it continues to grow among various areas including marketing, fan engagement, and content production.
"There are a ton of soccer fans in the United States and Canada, and we're engaging with them every day thorough content," Handler said. "We're producing more digital content than we ever had before. We are sharing as many highlights and lists, and fans are eating it up. Our social reach is the fastest growing of any sports leagues out there. And one of our secret weapons is being able to engage with our fans one-on-one."
In terms of marketing and overall branding, Handler is extremely excited about what the Union have been doing. From the Chief Tattoo Officer, to viral content such as the kit drop and the Fresh Prince, Handler believes the Union are capturing what fans are looking for and what gravitates them to the sport.
"I love what the Philadelphia Union are doing," Handler said. "I think there's a progressive, indie, edge and attitude with what the Union are up to, and I think is quite infectious. The Chief Tattoo Officer really speaks to the young millennial culture that's really important to Philadelphia. I love the energy and attitude that exists with the brand right now."
Another major launching point for fan engagement are events. From rivalry weeks to games being played at once in the final day of the season, MLS actively tries to make these games not just a game but an experience. With the idea of continuing to attract a younger, millennial audience, MLS are launching new initiatives such as MLS Summer Beat, which is debut in select markets this weekend. Handler believes Philadelphia could be one of those markets next season when the initiative launches league wide.
"A very important part of our content is our big event strategy," Handler said. "We have rivalry week, decision day, All-Star is amazing and this weekend we have a new one we're experimenting with called Summer Beat. It's about making a connection between soccer and music. We really believe music is core to our culture. After all, fans create a soundtrack every match. Philadelphia has an amazing music culture and musical legacy. Hopefully we get to tear that open in 2018."
MLS has a great opportunity to grow the sport more than it already has. The league is now third in attendance among the five major sports, and continually attracts and grows a youthful fanbase. Handler believes the future of the Union and MLS is very bright.
"My north star is the growth of our fan base," Handler said. "MLS is the league for a new North America, and we want to spread the word as far as possible and get as many people involved as possible."