People Helping People Love Soccer: How Indy Eleven Social Media Wins Fans, and Keeps Them

3 min read

xi-3d-crest-740x420_yoritl2da74e1kt1re8z39ra5Linda Broadfoot, our new director of Marketing and Business Development, has a big job. And, no: it’s not “Making Us Look Good.” That part of her job is pretty easy, or so she says. Here’s the hard part:¬†She has to know¬†everyone – and be¬†everywhere¬†– in Indianapolis.

She is. And she does. So it’s no surprise that she was at a breakfast a few weeks ago for¬†Indy Social Media, to hear¬†representatives of the city’s new pro soccer team, Indy Eleven¬†(for whom we’ve done a bit of work)¬†talk about social media. Specifically, the role¬†it¬†has played in what might seem like the team’s¬†almost overnight success.

Linda was impressed with what she heard and reached out to the team for more information. We spoke with Tom Dunmore, Indy¬†Eleven’s vice-president¬†of marketing & operations, who was a part of that October 23rd¬†panel.

Social media has played a huge role in the success of Indy Eleven, but one of the defining developments in that success occurred before the team even existed. In August of 2011, when a professional soccer team for Indianapolis was just a dream, the Brickyard Battalion formed to boost those prospects and work toward making the dream a reality.

The battalion¬†– their¬†own Josh Mason was also on the IndySM panel – came up with¬†the Racing Indy Football Club, a fictional team, “to ferment that desire. They created Facebook pages and started meeting at Chatham Tap.” The effort to create demand for the team seemed to work: six months before the Eleven’s first regular-season game, 7,000 season tickets had already been sold.

A photo posted by Indy Eleven (@indyeleven) on

According to Dunmore, the fans have continued to be essential collaborators, contributing greatly to¬†the team’s rapid growth in the public mind – from an idea and¬†a logo¬†to a local institution in¬†the span of a single season.

Social media has been a huge part of that successful partnership, and when it comes to reaching out, listening takes priority over crafting a message. “No issue is too small,” Dunmore insists. “If someone posts about something, then obviously it’s important to them. If it’s a problem, we either fix it or try to explain the reality.”

As an example, Dunmore tells the story of how the team helped fans through the process of getting the proper¬†tailgate permits from the state. “It took a lot of hard work from us and from them, but it was something we worked through together.” This is the kind of thing Dunmore is talking about when he refers to “building a stock of credit” with the fans.

With only fourteen staff members, this is obviously a big job, but getting the whole staff involved has made it more manageable. “Everyone chips in,” Dunmore¬†says. “Everyone has a personal Twitter account.” That includes Peter Wilt, the team president, who also receives all the emails sent to the team’s general email address. “Also,” Dunmore adds, “our PR director, John Koluder, had the idea of crowdsourcing our Instagram account on game days. And that’s been tremendously effective.”

A photo posted by Indy Eleven (@indyeleven) on

Joining¬†up with other Indianapolis organizations has also¬†boosted the team’s¬†social media reach. Through partnerships, like those¬†with Naptown Roller Girls and IndyFringe, Indy Eleven has been¬†able to extend its appeal beyond the obvious circles. A First Friday event in February, the Indy Eleven Artist Reception at the Harrison Center, brought even more support and allowed the team to show that they were interested in community involvement beyond the confines of the stadium and the season.

“When it comes to pursuing partnerships, there’s no single answer as to who is a good fit,” Dunmore says. “It helps to be original, to think creatively, to find events or organizations that can take you to places you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to reach otherwise.”