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Friday Q&A: Judah Levine of the Philadelphia Union

Those trying to bring Google Fiber to Philadelphia ought to learn a lesson from the Sons of Ben, the supporters club of the Philadelphia Union. Before the soccer team was even announced, the “Sons of Ben” invented chants and songs and happily sung them at Washington’s and New York’s MLS games. Their passion helped to convince Major […]



Those trying to bring Google Fiber to Philadelphia ought to learn a lesson from the Sons of Ben, the supporters club of the Philadelphia Union.
Before the soccer team was even announced, the “Sons of Ben” invented chants and songs and happily sung them at Washington’s and New York’s MLS games. Their passion helped to convince Major League Soccer to award the city a new franchise, beating St. Louis, among other cities.
After a rough start in week one, the team is preparing to play its first ever home game tomorrow at Lincoln Financial Field before eventually moving in to its new stadium, PPL Park, in Chester.
Since the team’s name and logos were announced in May 2009, the organization has made a priority to nurture its already vibrant fan base, taking an active role in using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. Between the two platforms, the team has over 30,000 followers, more than enough to fill its new stadium in Chester.
We exchanged emails with Judah Levine, the man behind the team’s social media outreach to ask what tools he uses, who he admires in the social media space and why we should go to tomorrow’s home game.

What is your exact role with the union, do you only handle social media?
I manage Philadelphia Union’s digital strategy as part of our overall marketing strategy, including philadelphiaunion.com, our Facebook page and our Twitter account. We’re also looking at a few strategic ways to utilize additional digital platforms to provide the best possible online experience for our fans.
Generally speaking, we’re more concerned with making the content we do offer as engaging as possible, rather than offering dozens of social media options without keeping them fresh and relevant. Quality over quantity.


Did you look to any other sports teams or businesses for inspiration?
We’re constantly surveying other professional sports teams for inspiration, but I wouldn’t say any one team or business in particular has dictated our strategy. With the rapidly evolving nature of social media and the digital world, it’d be naïve and arrogant to think that we’re the only ones coming up with fresh ideas.
It’s our responsibility to stay up-to-date with the latest trends, but at the same time we need to make sure that they’re adding value before using them as a means of communicating with our fans.
What is the ROI on all this social media work? (Can you trace increased sales to your efforts etc.)
Without discussing specific numbers, our digital inventory is heavily incorporated into our broader sales strategy. The main difference between our website and others not directly associated with a professional sports team is that our digital sales strategy is wrapped under a larger umbrella.
By that, I mean we don’t sell advertising space on a one-off basis. Instead, digital inventory is accounted for and valued within larger sponsorship partnerships. Providing partners with an integrated marketing platform essentially creates a “sum is greater than the parts” effect. Our partners are able to align their brands strongly and cohesively with our brand, which enables them to truly create a connection with our fans.
What tools do you use?
Well, my Electromatic Typewriter Model 03 really comes in handy. Just kidding.
We use a customized Content Management System (CMS) on our current site, although Major League Soccer’s new digital platform uses Drupal as its CMS. We’ll be switching our site over to the League’s new digital platform in the near future, which among other things will offer even more fresh content as well as enhanced presentation of videos and photos.
Do you work with the Sons of Ben for online outreach?
We’re in communication with the Sons of Ben frequently and are always looking for ways to co-promote events. Since they’re a very tech-savvy bunch, online ends up being a great forum to do so. We greatly appreciate all of their support and consider them the best supporters group in MLS.
For our readers who may not be into soccer (but are in to social media), what would you say to convince them that tomorrow’s Union game will be a good time?
I’d only say that the atmosphere at a soccer game is unlike any other major sport and it’s an experience everyone should have at least once in their life.
There are definite parallels between a soccer match and social media. Social media is all about making connections, whether they be with people, information or other forms of content. Similarly, soccer is very much a fan participation sport. Our supporters will actively engage in the experience of going to a game by standing, singing and chanting, which in turn creates strong connections amongst fans and between fans and the club.
Try it once and then decide if it’s worth coming back, but my advice would be at least try it once. I have a feeling you’ll not only come back, but come back with a few of your friends.
Every Friday, Technically Philly brings you an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia s technology community. See others here.

Companies: Philadelphia Union

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