Carolina RailHawks Marketing Plan Breve Carolina RailHawks Marketing Plan



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Carolina RailHawks Marketing Plan Breve




Carolina RailHawks Marketing Plan
Luis Breve

476: Sport Marketing

Dr. Casper

December 8 2014

Executive Summary

The Carolina RailHawks are a professional soccer team that plays in the North American Soccer League (NASL). They are based in Cary, North Carolina and play their home games at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Carolina RailHawks aim to provide the soccer fanatic with the ultimate spectatorship experience. The organization’s goal is to create lifelong memories in a family oriented environment at affordable prices, guaranteeing the enjoyment of the fans and providing the best customer service.

As a result of marketing research performed, it was established that the Hispanic demographic is the second largest group when it comes to MLS/NASL attendance. But most importantly, they are the demographic with the best potential for growth. Which is why this marketing plan is exclusively targeting the Hispanic population in the Research Triangle Park. The strategies will be implemented with different marketing tactics that we feel will enable the organization to grow and expand; while at the same time achieving the objectives set out in the mission statement. We plan on utilizing the different elements of the marketing mix to implement the strategies and achieve the overall goals.

The first marketing strategy is to attract new fans by making the organization’s information/marketing campaigns available to the Spanish speaking population through social media platforms. The second marketing strategy is to utilize the Hispanic media to advertise to potential new customers. The third and final strategy is to encourage interaction between the organization and the Hispanic community by attending/hosting specific Hispanic community events. The most accurate way to evaluate the success of the plan is to compare attendance of the Hispanic population demographic at RailHawks’ home games before and after the plan is executed.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………….4

Mission Statement…………………………………………………………………………4

Background………………………………………………………………………………..5

II. Situational Analysis…………………………………………………………………………….8

1. Internal Analysis (Strengths and Weaknesses) ………………………………...………8

2. External Environment Analysis (Opportunities and Threats) ………………...………10

3. Product Portfolio and Positioning…………………………………………………..…13

III. Competitive Analysis………………………………………………………………………...16

IV. Customer Analysis…………………………………………………………………………...19

1. Target Market………………………………………………………………………….20

V. Marketing Goals………………………………………………………………………………22

VI. Marketing Strategies and Tactics…………………………………………………………….23

VII. Implementation and Control………………………………………………………...………28

1. Action Plan…………………………………………………………………….………28

2. Budget…………………………………………………………………………………28

3. Evaluation……………………………………………………………………………..30

VIII. Appendix……………………...……………………………………………………………32

IX. References……………………………………………………………………………………35

Introduction

Mission Statement

Carolina RailHawks is an American professional soccer team based in Cary, North Carolina, United States. Founded in 2006, the team plays in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the second tier of the Pyramid. The team plays its home games at WakeMed Soccer Park, where they have played since 2007. The club's name, the RailHawks, originated from a name-the-team contest won by Jarrett Campbell.  The badge depicts a RailHawk flying over a set of train tracks.  The RailHawks are owned by Traffic Sports USA and are a founding member of the North American Soccer League. The team's colors are orange, white and blue. Their current head coach is Colin Clarke. On Saturday, April 21, 2007 the RailHawks kicked off their first season with a 1-1 draw against the Minnesota Thunder in front of 6,327 at WakeMed Soccer Park.  Kupono Low opened the scoring for the RailHawks in the 8th minute, scoring the first goal in club history. 

The Carolina RailHawks aim to provide the soccer fanatic with the ultimate spectatorship experience. The team does its best to simulate the stadium atmosphere of professional European soccer teams. Based on its geographic location, the team is the best option for cultured soccer fanatics, who seek to enjoy the thrill of soccer specific stadium-like atmospheres. The organization’s goal is to create lifelong memories in a family oriented environment at affordable prices, guaranteeing the enjoyment of the fans and providing the best customer service. The organization’s USP is “North Carolina’s premier soccer club. Hustle and heart set us apart.”

The Carolina RailHawks are based upon the game and business of soccer. However, besides the official team competing in the NASL and the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on a yearly basis, the organization works in other programs and provides more services to the general population. Among which are soccer camps during the course of the summer, the Under 23 team during the summer, soccer clinics, community appearances and the academy teams. These additional features help generate revenue as well as further cultivate a positive community relationship.


Background

The expansion of the USL to Cary, NC was announced on January 26, 2006 at a press conference at SAS Soccer Park (since renamed WakeMed Soccer Park). After a few changes in the 2008 off season the RailHawks ownership group consisted of: Wellman Family Limited partnership (Selby and Brian Wellman), HTCFC. INC (Bob Young former CEO of Red Hat, presently founder and CEO of LULU.com), Singh Holdings (Dr. H. Paul Singh) and Boris Jerkunica. After the 2010 season, Traffic Sports USA took ownership.

On October 11, 2006, former Rochester Rhinos defender Scott Schweitzer was named the first head coach of the RailHawks. Schweitzer played collegiately at North Carolina State University and retired from play prior to the 2006 season. On December 5, 2006, the RailHawks named the first players to sign with the franchise. Among the signings were two former UNC Tar Heel players, Chris Carrieri and Caleb Norkus, as well as several other players with Major League Soccer, United Soccer Leagues, and foreign playing experience.

The club launched their inaugural season on April 21, 2007, in front of a crowd of 6,327 at SAS Soccer Park when they drew 1–1 with the Minnesota Thunder in their first official regular season match. Midfielder Kupono Low scored the first goal in franchise history when he blasted 24-yard left-footed shot past Thunder keeper Joe Warren in the 8th minute of the inaugural match. On May 8, 2007, the RailHawks earned their first franchise victory 2–0 against Chivas USA in an exhibition match.

On August 14, 2007, with a 3–0 victory over the Charleston Battery, the RailHawks secured their first piece of silverware, the 2007 Southern Derby Cup, with one match remaining in the contest. The RailHawks finished their first USL-1 season in 8th place in the league table, securing the league's final playoff spot on the last day of the regular season with a 2–0 victory away over fellow expansion franchise the California Victory. The RailHawks were eliminated from the playoff quarterfinals by the eventual league champion Seattle Sounders.

In November 2009 the RailHawks announced their intent to leave the USL First Division to become the co-founders of a new North American Soccer League, which would begin play in 2010. The league, which had yet to be sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation or the Canadian Soccer Association, also comprised the Atlanta Silverbacks, Crystal Palace Baltimore, Miami FC, Minnesota Thunder, Montreal Impact, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Vancouver Whitecaps and a brand new team led by St. Louis Soccer United.

After lawsuits were filed and heated press statements exchanged, the USSF declared they would sanction neither league for the coming year, and ordered both to work together on a plan to temporarily allow their teams to play a 2010 season. The interim solution was announced on January 7, 2010 with the USSF running the new USSF D-2 league comprising clubs from both USL-1 and NASL. The RailHawks reached the final of the USSF D-2 playoffs, but fell to the Puerto Rico Islanders. After the 2010 season, the NASL and USL split, but the RailHawks faced sale by Selby Wellman on December 31, 2010. The RailHawks name was sold on Ebay and was purchased by Traffic Sports USA, who assumed operations of the club. The NASL received provisional sanctioning in 2011 and full sanctioning in 2012.

The RailHawks won the regular season in 2011 but fell to the NSC Minnesota Stars in the semifinals of playoffs. The club hired Colin Clarke as coach after Martin Rennie left for the Vancouver Whitecaps. In 2012, the RailHawks finished 4th in the regular season and fell to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the semifinals of the playoffs, while reaching the third round of the US Open Cup. In 2013 the league's format changed to a split season, and though the RailHawks finished with the most points in the league, they finished 2nd in both the Spring and Fall seasons and did not make the Soccer Bowl, though they advanced to the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup.

Although the Carolina RailHawks do not have a written marketing plan, they have clear objectives on how to promote their organization and team by creating positive publicity. Even though the organization is a professional sports team, it is not only dedicated to winning championships. One of its core objectives is to “create lifelong memories in a family oriented environment at affordable prices, ensuring the safety of the fans and providing the best customer service.” Having said that, the organization takes advantage of marketing resources such as e-mail lists, social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine), the RailHawks’ website, radio advertisements, television advertisements, community appearances (player, mascot, front office staff), soccer camps, youth academy teams, and business partnerships and sponsorships to spread the word about the excitement taking place on WakeMed soccer park all year long.

Being aware of the Hispanic population in the region and its cultural attachment to soccer, the RailHawks utilize this to their advantage by having advertisements on Univision and Spanish radio stations. The RailHawks also attend events for the Hispanic population and always bring along Hispanic players for community appearances.


Situational Analysis

Internal Analysis (Strengths and Weaknesses)

Strengths

Perhaps the biggest strength the organization possesses is its acknowledged leadership on an administration standpoint. The Carolina RailHawks are owned by Traffic Sports, a Brazilian sports marketing agency that runs Brazilian football clubs Desportivo Brasil, Ituano FC, G.D. Estoril Praia in Portugal and Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the USA. The company clearly has an idea of how to run a soccer team and has proven its ability to succeed based on its track record. And Traffic Sports also has the TV rights to numerous competitions, such as Copa America Chile 2015, CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, Copa Libertadores, CONCACAF Champions League and CONCACAF Gold Cup. The owning company is deeply involved in the soccer landscape in the US and has proven its capability to constantly be in the leading edge when it comes to soccer as a business.

Another strength is the location advantages that come with the RailHawks playing its home games at WakeMed Soccer Park, located in Cary. Due to its centralized location within the Research Triangle Park, the stadium is within 15-30 miles from cities and towns like Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. This provides an advantage as the organization doesn’t have to limit itself to a specific city or region for its biggest fan-base, rather it can compartmentalize.

A third strength for the organization is that all departments work together very closely, smoothly, and well to accomplish each and every goal that the organization sets during its off-season meetings, quarterly reviews as well as weekly staff meetings. There is constant interaction among members of various departments when it comes to decision making as well as collaboration for projects. And all of the employees, from the president to the interns know the structure and composition of the stadium as well as the training fields. It is essential that each employee know the locations of: entrances, restrooms, press box, suites, ATMS, concession stands and merchandise stores.


Weaknesses

Perhaps the biggest weakness of the Carolina RailHawks is the workplace culture in general. It is a disorganized mess. The organization is plagued with internal operating problems. The team is clearly falling behind in research and development. They don’t have the appropriate resources to conduct research on the fan-base and invest in future marketing campaigns. The management department constantly shuts down ideas from interns as well as employees due to lack of funds. But not only that, the operations manager as well as his assistant both display below-average marketing skills. They do not seem to comprehend how to run an organization like the RailHawks and constantly struggle to keep up with the demands from the president and the fans. Also, there is no clear strategic direction. Specific events and promotional campaigns are planned weeks or days prior to the date happening. There is a lot of improvisation and spur of the moment decisions being made, which lead to dissatisfaction by the customers and overall disorganization.

One shocking practice within the organization was the constant use of profane language amongst co-workers. Not the interns, but the front office staff. More specifically, the people I directly worked with under operations. These being the vice-president and the managers. They cursed out loud out of anger and frustration, on a daily basis. And they used almost every curse word to my knowledge. I presume it is a part of the office culture; it was simply something I wasn’t used to.

The internship program is in my opinion, the weakness that requires the most attention and immediate change. Speaking as a former intern I can say that although I enjoyed the area under which I was interning and I believe the experience will help me grow as a professional but there were many aspects of the internship and the organization, which I must criticize. During the week, my supervisor was flexible on days I had to come in, usually 3-4 per week. But, for game-days, shifts lasted between 12-16 hours. So technically, every Saturday I was pulling a double. I would arrive to the facility at 9:00 am and leave at 12:00 am. There was so much work that needed to be done and little organization or appropriate time management. The Operations Manager would delegate numerous tasks to the interns and expect us to finish at an impossible pace.

Also, during the course of the internship, several interns either finished their internship while I was there or quit. For 3-4 weeks, we were understaffed. The amount of labor for the few fellow interns available was enormous. This specially showed for the LA Galaxy game. I worked 30+ hours in the course of 2 days. Because the town of Cary was sowing the field on the stadium, the game had to be played on Koka field stadium, one of the practice fields. The Operations manager along 4 interns had to set-up a stadium to seat 2,500 people. We had to arrange bleachers, bike racks, bar tables and stools, lawn chairs among other things. I was not happy about it, I hadn’t signed up for such excruciating physical labor.
External Environment Analysis (Opportunities and Threats)

Opportunities

The best opportunity that the Carolina RailHawks have the ability to pursue is becoming an MLS franchise. In recent years, MLS franchises have been created in New York City, Orlando, Atlanta and Miami. The next step for the organization, specially the owners, is to set up and present a plan to convert the current NASL team into a future MLS team. As the league approaches an inevitable explosion of expansion, the Raleigh area's dedication and passion for soccer should not be overshadowed.

MLS will be the largest top-flight league on earth. And it’s not even close. No country in the modern era of the game has successfully dealt with that kind of size and scope at the top-flight level. If the 1990s marked the rebirth of American soccer and the 2000s followed its ascendance as a secondary sport, the 2010s could soon become the decade of its proliferation into the American cultural mainstream.

The RailHawks have had tremendous success on the field, posting the best regular-season record in the NASL three of the last four seasons, and respectable success in the local market. Arguably the most impressive component of the Triangle's soccer following, however, is at the youth level. Almost 9,000 children from ages 4 to 18 participate in the Capital Area Soccer League, which celebrates its 40th year of existence in 2014.

Indeed, the Triangle's wide-scale soccer movement is most evident among its youngest participants, a generation growing up with soccer listed first on physical-exam forms, with soccer instead of baseball the quintessential summer-night spectator sport, with soccer matches in Barcelona, Manchester, Munich and elsewhere in Europe on national TV in America.

It's the generation that will inevitably carry soccer into the U.S. professional-sports spotlight in the coming decades. It's the generation that will do the same locally in the Triangle. They deserve a MLS team to carry, too.

Directly linked with the growth and rise in popularity of the sport of soccer in the region is the success that the Carolina RailHawks youth academies have enjoyed. There are a variety of teams, which form part of the Carolina RailHawks academy, which are divided by gender, age, and skill level. Over the past couple of years, participation has steadily increased and more parents are signing up their kids to be part of one of the academy teams. But on-the-field success has also been evident, as the US Under-18 and Under-20 national teams have called up several former academy players. And not to mention, the amount of academy players who are able to attend college on an athletic scholarship.
Threats

Without a doubt, the biggest threat for the Carolina RailHawks is the slower growth product in the area due to the nature of the saturated market. Although there isn’t another professional soccer team in the area, the RailHawks compete with the Durham Bulls, the Carolina Mudcats, the Carolina Hurricanes as well as UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke and NC State when it comes their basketball and football programs. During the NASL season, which runs from March until November, there are a variety of other sporting events taking place. And not to mention the likeliness on the entry of new region competitors. If a NASL team were to be created in Charlotte or in Virginia, that could have a direct negative impact on attendance at the RailHawks games.

Another threat to the organization is the risk of losing the ability to play its home games at WakeMed Soccer Park. Historically, there has a been a tense relationship between the Carolina RailHawks and the Town of Cary, who administers WakeMed Soccer Park. It is important to note that both organizations’ offices are headquartered at WakeMed Soccer Park. There have been numerous incidents and arguments regarding the sale of products and alcoholic beverages during RailHawks games. Apparently there is a conflict of interests between the goals of the Town of Cary and the RailHawks front office. Based on my knowledge, there is a legally binding contract between both parties to allow the RailHawks to play their home games at WakeMed Soccer Park until the 2017 NASL season, but another disagreement between the parties might trigger an outcome with severe consequences for the RailHawks.
Product Portfolio and Positioning

The Carolina RailHawks are based upon the game and business of soccer. However, besides the official team competing in the NASL and the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on yearly basis, the organization works in other programs and provides more services to the general population. Among which are soccer camps during the course of the summer, the Under 23 team during the summer, soccer clinics, community appearances and the academy teams. These additional features help generate revenue as well as further cultivate a positive community relationship.

As mentioned before, the Carolina RailHawks have an academy with several teams for both males and females. The academy teams are highly specialized club teams, which compete in the highest levels of state and national competitions. The teams form part of Elite Technique, and are divided by age. The three age divisions are U-14, U-16 and U-18. In total there are 6 teams, which about 23-28 players per team.

Over the course of the summer, there are a variety of soccer camps, which take place. These camps are divided by age, skill level or player position. Usually, each camp lasts 3-5 days, depending on the level of intensity. The coaches for the academy teams work these camps with assistance at times from some of the U-23 team players. These coaches also host soccer clinics for different club teams of the area. They serve as a more professional comprehension onto the game for young athletes. The clinics usually last 2 days.

Throughout the year, via an official appearance request on the RailHawks website, players, front office staff or the mascot will attend events. Every player on the team roster has a clause on their contract, which establishes that he must appear in 3 events per month. There is spreadsheet, which one of the captains keeps to make sure the players are fulfilling that contract clause. There are a variety of events, which players and the mascot attend, such as races, charity auctions, soccer tournaments and festivals among others. Somebody from the front office staff usually accompanies the players or mascot and serves as the liaison.

During the course of the summer, the RailHawks compete in the NPSL, with a team comprised of a selection of players who attend colleges in the area. The assistant coach of the main team takes over the managerial roles for the NPSL season. Their season consists of 1-2 friendly games plus 10 NPSL games. This gives the collegiate athletes a chance to showcase their talent to scouts as well as a first hand experience on what it takes to become a professional soccer player. The Under 23 team plays their matches in one of the fields at the facility, Koka field stadium.

For home games at WakeMed Soccer Park, there are a variety of events that go on during the year. There is the Triangle Beer Festival, which involves hosting 30 vendors on the outsides of the stadium and charging a $15 fee for all you can eat and drink for 2 hours before the game starts. Another event is the Pig Pickin’ Festival, which has live music and numerous food stands displaying the best barbeque in the state. Besides these two events, as a fanatic you can purchase a birthday package for the game, which includes a signed team jersey. And companies or groups can rent the suites for lunch as a group outing.

Spread Your Wings Charity, Inc is the charitable arm of the Carolina RailHawks, focusing on serving children of the Triangle community through various programs promoting soccer and teaching children the importance of healthy living and being active. Programming has included instructional week-long soccer camps, local soccer clinics, educational visits to elementary and middle schools, and the ‘Kicks for Kids’ Night presented by PNC Bank. Each year the Carolina RailHawks Spread Your Wings Charity, Inc teams up with various local charities including the United Way, Boys and Girls Club, and other local non-profits on ‘Kicks for Kids’ Night to provide youth and their families the opportunity to experience a RailHawks game and soccer clinic.

The Branding Statement (Value Proposition) is: The Carolina RailHawks aim to provide the soccer fanatic with the ultimate spectatorship experience. Let’s create lifelong memories in a family oriented environment at affordable prices, guaranteeing the enjoyment of the fans and providing the best customer service. One team, one dream. The Unique Selling Proposition (Positioning Statement) is: “North Carolina’s premier soccer club. Hustle and heart set us apart.”



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