Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Growing The MLU Brand

October 15th, 2012, the day that the Major League Ultimate website launched.   One of the advantages that the MLU has that the other main sports leagues did not, is that the MLU was founded in a world with the Internet.  The Internet has allowed the MLU to gain more nationwide recognition in its very first season than any other sport has. It has allowed fans of ultimate to follow the sport even when they are not in an area where there is a team and also given new audiences a chance to see other teams perform.

Each week in the regular season the MLU would broadcast at least one of the weekend's games online on Youtube.  It was broadcast for free so anyone could see it and enjoy it to introduce the sport, in a interview with DC Current captain Daniel Kantor, he mentioned that fans are commenting "how great it is to see professional ultimate, and it is hard to really grasp how crazy that is".  Some weekends the MLU had the opportunity to put on more than one game, one on the East and West coast. On Conference Championship weekend, both of the games were streamed free online and the MLU Championship was also free. They allow the replays to be accessed online and are available for anybody.

One of the risks that the MLU took when the league was originally announced was the use of Pulsar discs. Now for years the main company for ultimate players and USA Ultimate was Discraft discs. Discs that were the standard for playing ultimate due to their quality and weight. Now Pulsars are a little bit different, they are created by a disc golf company INNova, and the weight distribution on the disc isn't the same. Its very similar to how Wilson footballs are different than Nike footballs, they are still footballs but are different and are more comfortable to certain people depending on who you ask.  Nathan Slade, first year professional ultimate player for the DC Current, described it best as "the muscle memory being just off" and was simply "different from what [he] was used to" and eventually began to favor the disc. As more and more ultimate players became to grow fond of the new Pulsar discs, the MLU began a partnership with Dicks Sporting Goods and now are making a new standard for discs.

As the league grew throughout the year, its sphere of influence began to spread. Numerous occasions there were plays featured on Sportscenter's Top 10 plays, other portions of the MLU were also seen on SportsNation and other popular shows on ESPN. Towards the end of the season, Comcast would replay games in the nearby areas of local teams but the highlight of the MLU season came when it received national prime time attention from the "Jones and Mosley Show" on Fox Sports 1. The show featured the MLU at its finest giving outsiders a look into the sport and also gave a quick recap of the MLU Championship Game.

Perhaps the most signature partnership for the MLU so far has to be the new deal with the nationally known brand, Puma. For the 2014 season, Puma has designed and will provide jerseys for the players and for teams to sell.  This deal is huge for the ultimate community, giving the sport a national stage but allowing it to keep its identity at the same time. Pictures can be seen at the following link
---> MLU 2014 Team Jerseys Released 

Needless to say the MLU has had a lot of success in building a brand in just it's first season.  As far as a comment from the Commissioner of the MLU, Jeff Snader, on the potential partnerships coming in the next season and beyond he simply stated "[l]ots. You'll just have to wait and see."

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