Monday, April 13, 2009

Chivas USA: The Ugly Duckling: 2 Years Later

Chivas USA is on top of the table, deep in playoff position. Galaxy is near the bottom, out of playoff position again. Chivas USA is undefeated after four games. Galaxy is winless after three.

And despite all this, the “other” LA team is woefully squandering away its position as a 2nd Los Angeles franchise and stubbornly holding on to the ‘Chivas’ moniker that has kept the stands empty and driven away so many potential fans.

5 years in, the experiment is still not working.

In any early marketing course, Chivas USA would be taken as the model to follow in terms of marketing efforts. Since Shawn Hunter arrived, the club has thrown everything but the kitchen sink in an effort to increase attendance and build support.

Even so, the club still finds little need to remove the trashcans that block access to the stadium’s upper level for any game not involving LA Galaxy or Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

In a more advanced marketing course, Chivas USA would certainly be taken as a model when considering why good marketing efforts fail: It’s the product.

And, no, it’s not the product on the field; it’s the product on the jersey.

For all intents and purposes, Chivas USA may very well be a high-end power tool, but when you look at their crest, you still see Black & Decker and not DeWalt.

Chivas USA’s case is also being made for them by Galaxy’s current form, AEG’s follies and the shining examples on how to get expansion right from teams like Toronto and Seattle.

The “Euro” look to the new expansion franchises has garnered strong attention from fans across the league, many hoping that their team could “get things right like them.”

A lot of LA fans, disappointed by Galaxy’s performance in the league and more so by AEG’s woeful customer service, are often left looking for an alternative: a team that gets things right. Unfortunately, for them, and for Chivas USA they are almost automatically stopped at the door by the seal of the city of Guadalajara on the other team’s crest.

And it’s not just the disillusioned Galaxy faithful that would be open to, and perhaps even tempted by a new team that embraced Los Angeles as a whole. It’s also Chivas USA’s faithful, the ones who have done their best to be like mothers to this team, and love them despite their inherent ugliness.

Take this quote from a Chivas USA fan for example:

i started following CUSA their first year (like most others) and the whole "mexican-inspired roster project" was pretty interesting until it failed miserably. 4 years later, im wishing it never happened. i hate the fact that we'll never really be able to develop a true history since we'll always be labeled as the "little brothers" or reserve team for chivas guadalajara.the truth is, we have no unique identity and thus cant really build a history or a tradition.

The truth is, the longer Chivas USA wait to make the switch, the harder it will be to do so later on.

Galaxy is slowly showing signs of life, and once that happens, the temptation to switch allegiances will be gone. AEG will bring in another big name player to bring back the crowds (possibly a Mexican, who would harm Chivas USA’s appeal among their original target market) and Chivas USA will be left still relying on everything-but-the-kitchen-sink marketing to keep announced attendance above 12,000 on a Saturday night.

Archive: The Ugly Duckling Part 1

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