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The Fan Focus: Say Hello, America


Alex Tutungi - April 4, 2019

None of us like to believe that we can be swindled by the intentional schemes of advertisers.

You can spot bad marketing a mile away and tune out…but when it’s good, we all know that feeling of being instantly captivated and compelled to learn more. You might even become a devoted follower.

That’s what our motto “We Create Fans.” is all about. Marketing isn’t about pulling the curtain over someone’s eyes and saying “GOT YA!” It’s about showcasing the things that make an idea, product or business worth supporting, the way you do your favorite musician or team. It’s about creating motivated, engaged fans.

Now, as people who do this for a living, it’s important that we’ve not only experienced our own “fan creating” moments, but can articulate what they did so well. Otherwise, we should probably just shut up.

Welcome to “The Fan Focus.” In these posts, we’ll talk about the marketing campaigns, ads and more, that have made fans out of us.

Soccer is in the DNA of what we do at Thirsty. So, we’re diving right in with the ad that made me (Alex) watch soccer for the very first time.

Say Hello, America

Los Angeles. We’re a city that demands the best:

Food, culture, music, entertainment, sports, weather, diets, plastic surgeons…you get it.

Prior to 2007, there was a giant “Futbol” sized hole in America’s heart–how could Los Angeles pass up the opportunity to fill it spectacularly? Likewise, how could global superstar extraordinaire David Beckham pass it up? It was a match made in heaven.

On July 21st, 2007, David Beckham agreed to a shocking transfer that would take him from mega-club Real Madrid in Spain, to the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer. The only question: would anyone here actually care?

ESPN had the broadcast rights to Beckham’s first MLS appearance and needed to tap into something that would reach beyond existing fans of the sport and America’s notorious resistance to soccer. Not only were rating already low but if you’ve ever spent 10 seconds in the comment section of a soccer-related social media post, you know that public perception of the sport in American is mostly…frustrating. (Coincidentally, the city mentioned in that article is now one of the most vibrant soccer markets in the country).

Let’s be honest, we Americans have short attention spans: would this really be enough to convince us to sit down and watch a full 90-minute event, where there was no guarantee of even one goal? No guarantee of even one bench-clearing brawl? A concussion-inducing tackle?

It would be a hard sell. So, they didn’t.

ESPN’s “Say Hello, America” ad knew exactly what hurdles came with trying to create fans of soccer in America, so it didn’t try and sell the game. Instead, it subtly tapped into our deepest, selfish desires: to be the best, to set the trends and to have what others can’t.

I’m not gonna lie to you, the idea of David Beckham playing for Los Angeles just from a soccer standpoint was awesome…but the idea of one of the biggest global icons LEAVING one of the best clubs in the world…for us?

Now we’re talking.

It was exactly the kind of drama we live for in America and exactly the kind of drama that creates fans in our culture.

Just look at those sad Madrid fans! Look at them tearing down their posters! Give me more! (I’m a Dodger fan, so this definitely hasn’t come back to haunt me in any way.)

The ad played perfectly into the narrative that we didn’t just have a soccer player coming our way–we had a phenomenon. Something that would leave others inconsolable at the thought of not having. ESPN knew that Beckham’s arrival couldn’t just be another athlete changing teams, it had to be the arrival of a lifestyle.

Between the shots of Spain and the perfectly chosen “Beatles” tune, it felt more like the arrival of a new culture. I wanted to be in the know about this larger than life figure, who played a larger than life sport. I wanted to be a fan.

I tuned in, obviously, and have been watching soccer ever since. So did America. 1.5 million viewers watched Beckham’s first match, setting the record for the largest viewing audience of an MLS match. More importantly, Beckham’s arrival helped to change the fandom of soccer in America forever.

Would the sport have eventually taken off the way it has without him? Probably. But when I saw that “Say Hello, America” it kick-started the process.

On July 21st, 2011, I became a fan of the beautiful game and probably a fan of what good storytelling does in ads. And in a way, it set the ball in motion (sorry, couldn’t finish this without one terrible pun) for me wanting to work somewhere where soccer was part of the DNA. I guess I have ESPN to thank for that.

Alexander Tutungi
Marketing Associate

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