Just how does Seattle do it?
Seeking an answer to their resounding attendance success, Bloomberg Television show C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett dropped in on the Sounders for their Sept. 13 match vs. Real Salt Lake with one question in mind: What's the formula for establishing one of the most attended professional soccer franchises in the world seemingly overnight?
Hayzlett spoke with Sounders majority owner Joe Roth, GM Adrian Hanauer and a handful of other front office officials to get the answers. And on the surface the secret sounds simple enough: customer – or fan – involvement.
“Our key is to keep our fan base engaged and excited because that drives everything,” said Hanauer, whose own job is voted on every four years ... by the supporters.
“Trust their fans. That’s what we’re doing here, regardless,” Roth said on his advice for other professional sports franchises.
And Roth doesn't just talk the talk. When the Sounders lost 4-0 to the LA Galaxy in their second year in the league, the club refunded every fan their ticket money. It was a gesture that had a hefty price.
“It cost us a million dollars,” Roth said. “If you’re not connected in that way, if you’re not willing to stand out here and be part of it in that way, then I think you’re missing something.”
While it helps to have a city that's passionate about the game -- the report states that Seattle has the most youth players per capita of any major city in the United States -- and a tight partnership with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, the show's main takeaway is that Sounders fans are the drivers of the club's success.
“They let the brand loose, they gave it to the fans,” Hayzlett concluded.