At various points over the last century American soccer has struggled with selling the world’s game to the domestic market.
Teams, leagues and federations have tried everything from Kids-Eat-Free nights to signing Pele to the wholesale importation of foreign teams to American cities in hopes of reaching the unconverted. The results of these endeavors have been decidedly mixed, but one fan thinks he’s found the simplest solution to this 100-year-old problem: free suds.
Wisconsin native Dan Wiersema is the founder of The Free Beer Movement, a website/campaign whose mission is grow the ranks of stateside soccer fans by the only means necessary, the promise of a few no-strings-or-dollars-attached cold ones in the presence of friends and sport.
“For about a year I’ve been trying to push this idea that free beer is our thesis,” says Wiersama. “Free beer is our mission statement.”
According to Wiersama the idea goes back to a single line in a 2005 post on the blog We Call It Soccer, suggesting that “what soccer needs is free beer.” The thought stuck with him but was never acted upon until about a year ago when he launched TheFreeBeerMovement.com to help take the message to the masses.
The idea is that soccer fans bring non-soccer fans to a game with the promise that they'll buy them a beer. The hope is that upon experiencing an game, the unconverted become converted.
“We’re not asking fans who already love the sport to buy 30 season tickets—that’s not realistic," Wiersama said. "But if you have friends, family or coworkers that are underexposed to the sport, buy them a beer. And we all know people will do a lot of things for free beer.”
Although the Free Beer Movement is aimed mostly at individual fans on a grassroots level, you don’t need to be a business major to figure out that the economic investment of this type of proposition isn’t so great as to be a deterrent for any business entity that were to take a stab at co-opting the idea from the Movement.
Sounding like fútbol’s version of Jerry Fallwell, the Austin, Texas, based Wiersama preaches the “each one, teach one” style of support.
“If you can get them to come to a game for the price of a few beers, hopefully, you’ve opened the door to future fandom,” he said.
The Free Beer Movement is a novel approach for certain and may be a long, long way from making an appearance inside the concourses of your local stadium. But if you check the parking lot, you just might find the Movement in full swing at a tailgate or two.
“It’s a somewhat silly idea, but that’s why it works,” Wiersama said, equating his group to missionaries that, in this case, spread soccer and beer. “It gets people talking about it, and at the end of the day, that’s what we want.”