Earthquakes Local Media Coverage

If you look at the online Sports section of the San Francisco Chronicle, I think you notice one of the problems of MLS right away.  In the heading section the San Francisco sports teams get headings, as do the Oakland Raiders and A’s and the San Jose Sharks.  But the San Jose Earthquakes aren’t mentioned.

The NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and College get headings, but there is no MLS.  You have to click the “Other” heading to be taken to a page where soccer lumped in with auto racing, cyling, horse racing, and other specialty sports.

There are reasonable justifications for this omission.  If you look at this write-up of the Earthquakes most recent game, you see that the Chronicle didn’t even assign a beat writer to the game and just took the story from the AP.  You also see a dreaded 0-0 tie in the scoreline, and empty seats close to the field in the photo accompanying the article.  And not a single entry in the comments section.

Clearly, MLS still has some ground to conquer in basic media coverage.  One of the frustrations for the league is that I think with some justification they could claim that with more media coverage they could deliver more fans.  Living here in the Bay Area, the talk is all Giants, A’s, 49ers, Raiders, Warriors, and Sharks.  There almost isn’t room for another team.

Somehow the San Jose Earthquakes need to differentiate their fan experience, because the roots of baseball, football, and basketball are simply too strong in this area.  Two key demographics to go hard after, to my mind, are immigrants from soccer counties and the worldly, hipsterish wing of the sports fan spectrum.  I’m not entirely sure how to synchronize two such fan bases.  But make soccer cool and different.  Make it a unique experience, tap into the soccer traditions that exist in other counties and give them an American spin.

It seems that the success of MLS in Portland and Seattle has roots partly in this vein, where they are coming up with kinds of traditions and rituals like Seattle’s walk to the stadium, Portland’s lumberjack sawing logs, and the unveiling of giant banners.  But these cities also have less competition from other sports.  Seattle has two large teams (Mariners and Seahawks), and Portland has one (Trailblazers).  The Bay Area has six big teams.  It’s a heavier task.

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