Today I opened up my inbox and realized that Rugby can be sold in America, and the Seattle SeaWolves are leading the way. This post follows A Message to all US Major League Rugby (MLR) fans – What’s up in Seattle? , written several months ago describing the unique, electric atmosphere created at Starfire Sports, home of the MLR Champion Seattle SeaWolves. This article will discuss the masterful job of sales/branding/marketing this team is doing.
Background Information: I am a 2nd-year season ticket holder at Starfire Sports. I am regularly engaged by the SeaWolves on various social media, and email. I am informed about Team events; and more importantly, fan events that have evolved, including Rugby watch parties, Rugby Laws explained sessions, and the SeaWolves Supporters Group “Monthly Hunt”, where fans of the team socialize together. New offerings of licensed gear come across often with engaging fashion. The SeaWolves fans have shown such an appetite, Graham Oliphant has created “The Rugby 100 Club” indicating status for the first 100 fans who sign up to travel as a Booster group to any and all of the MLR away games. It’s real.
Recently, announcements of several games in Seattle have sparked more rugby interest. The USA Eagles (Men’s National Team) will be playing Uruguay in Seattle on March 2, and the Eagles will stay in Seattle and play Canada on March 8. Both games will be played at Starfire Sports.
There is also a match being played between the SeaWolves and its feeder club, Seattle Saracens on January 17 offering players a final tuneup before the MLR and BC Premier League start respectively. This match will be played on a Thursday night in a cold (probably rainy) day in Seattle. From my experience, this type of match would rarely be ‘marketed’, broadcast, or have any attempt at commercializing. The MLR, and particularly the SeaWolves are changing the way to sell rugby in this country. Note, over half of the SeaWolves first year season ticket holders were ‘non-rugby’ people.
Branding – Simple and Smart
The Branding of the teams, including interchangeable colors, is completely intentional. From the colors (SeaHawk Blue/Green) that both SeaWolves and Saracens wear to the personal and Pacific NW themed logo’s that align with the Seahawks (NFL) and Sounders (MSL), the commercial viability of Rugby, at least in the Seattle area is alive and very well.
I received the following letter today from the SeaWolves ticket office. A “Hold Invoice” for the game, offering a one-click option to pay the very reasonable price set for this game.
This presumptive marketing of Rugby is nothing short of brilliant. Congratulations SeaWolves CEO Shane Skinner on setting the standard not only for the league but for showing the American Rugby community what is possible for this sport. Note, the proceeds of the match will support the feeder club (Saracens) and Seattle Slam Wheelchair Rugby Association, another Saracens partner. This is rugby taking care of its own.
Skinner has advised that season ticket holders will be offered seats to the two USA Eagle matches coming in March, in the same manner with ‘hold invoices’. Seattle should blow away any/all expectations of spectators for this match, particularly considering a huge portion of the American rugby audience will be attending the Vegas and/or Canada 7s the same weekends.
As professionalism in Rugby in America develops, both on and arguably more importantly off the field; the commercial prospects and requirements increase exponentially. While we struggle to fill seats at the National level for our Eagles Teams, I desire to see USA Rugby and the MLR work together to place Tests and other high profile games in tested cities and grow the game utilizing such creative marketing techniques as demonstrated in Seattle. Perhaps USA Rugby can consider such techniques in creating commercial viability for its products.
Well done SeaWolves.
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