Next stop: Major League Soccer
By Ryan McKee / Manager, Marketing & New Media
Last week might have been the biggest week in Club history. For sheer multitude of announcements, I’m not sure what other week comes close. Two major media conferences to announce our new logo, jersey and Premier Founding Partner headlined the week. A Southsiders pub night and a bus trip to Seattle were sprinkled in as well. And of course, six matches over a 7-day span for the men, women and Residency squads (finishing undefeated, with two wins and four draws).
My week started Sunday evening, not at Swangard but at Tonic, the video production studio that has become my second home over the last week. Monday was a complete blur, a frantic day that started at 8:00 a.m. and finished at 12:45 a.m. on Tuesday. A brief five hour sleep later and I was back at the Vancouver Convention Centre for the big announcement. It was particularly special for me as I’d been a part of the small team that worked on this logo from day one. It was about 14 months ago that we began the process of talking to our owners, staff, season ticket holders and the public. We then worked directly with Adidas on the creation, and I don’t think more than 3 days went by in the last year that we weren’t in conversation with them. Once the logo was finalized, so began the difficult task of trying to keep it secret while still moving forward on merchandise, advertising and other elements critical to this launch week. In fact, I’m still a little shocked that the logo didn’t somehow leak!
Wednesday was another long day, including rushing Martin Nash to a midday photo shoot with the new kit, and then the men’s match that evening. Thursday was the big Bell announcement and the unveiling of our kits. The media conference was really well done and it was cool to see Martin and Kara come out catwalk-style.
By Thursday morning, I was really looking forward to the upcoming bus trip. Not only was it the cap to a busy week of events (and admittedly, a chance to kick back, relax and reflect), but it was also an opportunity to do something fun with our fans: to strip away all the formalities, all the speeches and presentations, and just celebrate what it means to be a fan. Traveling to another stadium always brings out the best in people. Maybe it’s the precarious march – chain-gang style – through Customs or the long bus ride that makes people come up with creative ways of passing the time. Or maybe it’s the banding together as foreigners – 40 outcasts amongst a sea of 30,000 lime green. Whatever it is, there’s a sort of commonality and purity to it all.
The bus ride went by remarkably quick, although a slight mix up at the border halted our progress. We brought a bunch of t-shirts and scarves to give out as prizing on the trip but because they were still wrapped in plastic with tags on, we couldn’t take them across the border. So we did the only logical thing – rip open all the packages, turf the tags and hand out the prizes to everyone on board. It might have ruined our surprise goodies, but our patrons were no less happy for receiving some nice swag.
The rest of the journey down was much smoother, highlighted by Paul Barber’s Q&A chat and a fierce battle of spoon-pass-ball (that’s the best name I could come up with). Once we arrived at Qwest, we ventured off in several directions but reconvened for the “March to the Match”. Two fellow coworkers and I missed the March, but we had plans of our own to fulfill. We stayed back until the March had passed and then convinced a street face-painter to adorn our cheeks with the new Whitecaps logo. When we got to our seats, the rest of the Vancouver contingent were mighty impressed and saluted us with a round of applause!
The match began and we stood throughout, bellowing out Whitecaps songs. We couldn’t hold a candle to the 30,000-plus Seattle faithful, but it did not matter. We did our best to be loud, proud and a nuisance, some more successful than others. A few of the nearby fans were unimpressed but most of them welcomed us, including one Emerald City Supporter who shook our hands, welcome us to the league and then told us he hated us (in a good-natured way).
The ride home was far less eventful, although showing “Once in a Lifetime”, the fantastic documentary about the New York Cosmos and NASL, was a nice touch. As luck would have it, one of our two busses broke down at the border, so we had to get a little cozy for the last stretch. I think it was kind of nice getting everyone on the same bus, as when each person was dropped off, they left to a joyful round of applause and well-wishes.
For me, I awoke the next day exhausted from the week that was but excited about the next steps for this Club. The week was symbolic of our mandate – that despite all the big announcements that are sure to come, we will always find ways to share it personally with those that support us through and through.
I had one last promise to fulfill that Friday morning. Before disembarking, I promised the bus trippers that I’d come to work the next day with the logo still on my cheek. Well, mission accomplished.