To kick off the start of Major League Soccer new season, NewsCred had the chance to catch up with David Bruce, the League Director of Brand and Integrated Marketing. MLS has been killing it with its marketing and social media tactics, thanks in large part to the Sunderland native and die-hard fan who has made it his mission to constantly keep his teams efforts ahead of the curve.

When it comes to social media, MLS has built a stunning presence through campaigns like #ThisIsSoccer and #JerseyWeek , which have helped gather 150,000 subscribers on YouTube, 300,000 followers on Twitter and 2.58 million on Google+. To help marketing teams get into gear for the World Cup, Bruce shares the playbook of the latest campaign along with some of the best ways to leverage social media in a sports marketing landscape.

The campaign is called “MLS: For Club and Country.” Can you share some of the thinking and process behind it?

It was all developed in-house, as an evolution from our “This is Soccer” tagline, which has been the brand’s anchor for a couple of years. This year is significant, with the amazing backdrop of the Brazilian World Cup and the US men’s national team arguably the best in its history, there’s going to be a lot of eyes on soccer.

With this sport, you follow a club and a country. With that, we’re perfectly positioned to leverage how patriotic people are and how much love and attention there’s going to be for the US team. We’ve brought back a lot of big talent over the past 12 months. With “For Club and Country,” we’re striking at the heart of that and connecting fans to the country they might follow, as well as to the star American and international players who will be out there at MLS games this spring.

Leveraging athletes with celebrity power seems to be a great way to build buzz among fans. What’s the best way for marketing teams to go about doing that?

Creating a connection point between a league and its star players is a quick win for any club that has players going to the World Cup. Putting a spotlight on World Cup talent that exists, or has existed on squads, and using those guys as a catalyst to tell a story is the best way to connect with fans. Our players are our biggest advocates and influencers; they’re who fans get excited about and emotionally bonded to, they’re the ones out there doing unbelievable athletic feats every week.

It’s their authentic voice on social media that creates an amazing point of connection for any fan. We encourage our guys to have handles and we have our Director of Social Media,  Amanda Vandervort , do social media training them at the beginning of the season with best practice sessions and case studies. The players love it and they get it. We have games every week, but what happens in the six and a half days in between? Social media helps us keep the dialogue going in a way that’s unique and personal.

Which UK football clubs stand out to you in terms of marketing and social media?

We admire a lot of what the  Premier League  clubs do. One of our owners now is Manchester City (they are co-owners of NYCFC). They’ve done an incredible job over the last few years of building a global brand and engaging deeply with fans through social media and digital tactics, and part of that strategy was buying into MLS.

What social media platforms do you find particularly useful in your marketing efforts?

#ItAllStartsHere is the hashtag we’ve put out into the world to encourage our avid fans and people who really love the game to tell us, where and when does soccer start for you? It’s a real user-generated campaign for us – our fan base is passionate and super social, 18-34 and all highly engaged in social media. We’re finding  Instagram ’s video component and  Vine becoming very impactful. You get fans snapping their view of the MLS world in 6 to 15 seconds, and you take that and shine a light on it getting even more people to see the campaign.

Our fans want to be part of telling the story and we work to galvanize that because we believe that when you combine the players and the fans you get this unbelievable channel of people who really want to champion your brand. That’s immensely powerful and we’re always looking for ways to try and make that happen in a cool and relevant way.

Well, it’s been under a week and there’s already over 10,000 posts out there tagged #ItAllStartsHere, so it looks like you’re on the right track! What’s next on the horizon for MLS?

A few years ago, there were only really 2 or 3 people in the marketing department, now we’re 7 or 8. We’re growing rapidly and we can move the ship a lot quicker than a lot of other sports brands, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re moving into our 20th year next year, we’ve got two new teams -- New York City Football Club and Orlando City Soccer Club -- coming on board next season, bringing us up to 21, and with Beckham exercising his option to purchase a club and identifying Miami, so it’s all very exciting. We’re evolving as a league and we happen to be at a really amazing point in time right now.

By Anastasia Dyakovskaya, NewsCred Contributor  

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