Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More MLS player promotion, please

So, I was watching Vanilla Sky last night for that ominously-titled World Making class I’ve referenced a few times here. Man, that class just opens up your mind. I’ve been busy analyzing my own analysis of the world. If I ever get a foothold of the theory behind that class, I have a feeling this whole blog will self-implode and reform as a 27,000 page discourse on the plight of soccer here in the States.

ANYWAY, for those of you who’ve seen the movie, you know it was a pyschological, 135-minute mind screw. It actually took me three sittings to finally figure it out. Seriously, I just got the entire jist of the plot last night, some seven years after I first watched it.

But that’s not the point of this post. You’re not here to read about my movie watching habits,* nor about my film reviews.** You’re here to read about soccer. And after the movie, I tuned into NESN, and wouldn’t you know it – I saw Taylor Twellman pitching a local Audi dealership.

(*I generally find myself watching flicks of the following classifications: sports, drama, and chick flicks. The occasional romantic comedy and sci-fi film never hurts, but I’m not at all a fan of horror.

I had a girlfriend who, whatever the opposite of the word “desensitized” is, did that word to me. I used to watch The Shield with her, and whenever a character on the show would get killed, tortured, maimed, beaten down, etc., she’d say something like “that poor guy – he’s got like parents. What will his parents do when they find out their son is dead or beaten to a pulp? What about his girlfriend?” I started thinking like that, too. Now, I can’t watch a fictional character get hurt or killed without thinking about their fictional loved ones’ reactions.)

(**See Frost/Nixon. DON’T see Taken.)

I won’t breakdown the commercial, other than to say that the ending oozed the cheese of 99% of local television spots. It ends with Taylor saying something to the effect of “I did” or something like that after the narrator spoke of taking advantage of the dealerships outstanding deals and customer service. I should’ve TiVo’d it.

The great thing about this commercial is that it’s the first I’ve seen in at least five years where a New England Revolution player is featured. Aside from that adidas spot where Michael Parkhurst makes a cameo, Revs players find the camera about as often as a local squash team. To me, that speaks volumes about how much more can be done to promote the league.

Yeah, those adidas ads with Jozy Altidore kicking holes though defenders, and Sacha Kljestan intermingling with a youth club are cool. I’ll take any of those over another commercial with Peyton Manning. Or, God help us, any of those stupid Coors light commercials with retired/recently fired NFL head coaches.

I’ve always thought that local advertising was a neat little way to embed professional soccer into the sports consumer’s consciousness. People remember commercials. I can recall just about every commercial featuring a local player. My favorite has to be the Matt Light Fagan Doors spot. Because, you know, 320-pound linemen just casually show up to a person’s garage after Fagan installs new garage doors.

If people didn’t know who Matt Light was before then, and before that crazy Life Water commercial where he dances and turns into a lizard, they definitely know him now. Not bad for a guy who doesn’t score touchdowns or have the looks of the guy he gets paid to protect. But most of us in New England sports nation know him, and we know him even better now because of those TV spots.

The same applies at all athletes, even soccer players. Even though I already knew who Taylor Twellman was, I’ll always associate him with Audis. I like Audis. In fact, I may just have to buy an M5* at that dealership because of Twellman’s endorsement.

(*And park it right next to Twellman’s in the Gillette Stadium player’s lot. Like I’m going to park that baby in the media lot. Yeah. Right.)

Sorry about that. I got sidetracked for a second there.

Now, I know the whole endorsement deal is a two way street. A club can’t simply say, “here’s a player, put him in your commercial, and we’ll give you season tickets.” I understand that the advertising firm has to actually want a pro athlete, and already has one in mind well before filming takes place. That’s how these guys roll.

There are MLS players who would be perfect for television. Twellman, for instance, has – how can I say this as a heterosexual male – a photogenic face. OK, OK, he’s a good-looking guy. And I know this because I’ve heard thousands of girls (and women) shriek his name at the Razor on a regular basis. They think he’s cute. They want to marry him. And it helps that he’s pretty darn good at soccer, too.

Maybe some of these guys’ agents need to work a bit harder. I can think of at least five other MLS players that would be perfect pitchmen. Jimmy Conrad. Matt Reis. Frankie Hedjuk. Dwayne DeRosario. Oh, and I almost forgot. Chris Klein.*

(*You probably wouldn’t think of Klein before Landon Donovan. But if Landy’s extremely passive appearance on “MTV Cribs” is any indication, a lot of us would fall asleep halfway through the commercial. Don’ t get me wrong – we all know he’s a heck of a player. But man, that dude’s off-field disposition is just way too nonchalant for me. Klein, on the other hand, has always been an entertaining personality, albeit in the brief interactions I’ve had with him. He’s got energic and colorful, and would be a way better pitchman than Braylon Edwards in those horrible 5 Hour Energy spots.)

And there’s always the original MLS crop of familiar faces. Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones, and Eric Wynalda. Remember when Cobi used to host “Mega-Dose” on MTV back in late-90s? I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. That show proved you could successfully match the MLS player with the MTV demographic.

That’s just one real-life example. I believe a Revolution-kitted Alexi did a SportsCenter commercial just after the league launched. Someone thrashed his guitar. Chuckles abound.

Much, MUCH more work needs to be done to promote this league. Its primary focus should not be expansion. In fact, I am anti-expansion in the sense that so many other areas need to be addressed first, promotion and player salaries among others. While MLS is busy trying to figure out if Montreal, Miami, Portland or St. Louis are ripe for top-flight soccer, there are plenty people in Kansas City, Houston, and New England who have no idea that there’s an MLS team in their backyard. And if they do, they need a reason to check it out. Without local promotion, that reason will continue to escape them.

The Twellman commercial is an encouraging sign. My hope is that it’s the first of many. I want to see Shalrie Joseph hawking Dunkin Donuts. I want to see Steve Ralston pitching Bass Pro Shops. Matt Reis could sell ketchup on a Popsicle stick. Soccer players are marketable. Their names just need to be whispered in a few ears.

And maybe then – just maybe – this league of ours may wake up and see a beautiful vanilla sky.


A.Ruiz said...

It took you 3 times to get Vanilla Sky? Really? I guess, you're not the sharpest crayon in the box when it comes to movie plots.

BrianTheOC said...

For real, 3 times...I'm not proud of it either.