Derek Phillips on the Portland Timbers pitch with Delight field trip to Providence Park.

On the pitch and off: behind the scenes with Portland Timbers marketing

There’s a lot of talk in marketing about “building your tribe,” and a lot of it is just that: talk. Sure, there are brands out there building affinity, but how many can say they have reached the kind of loyalty that gets them regularly featured on ESPN?

As part of Delight 2016, I had the pleasure of leading a field trip to Providence Park, home of the 2015 MLS Cup Champion Portland Timbers. The park itself is 90 years old and has a rich history we learned about on our guided tour. For example, newer fans or visitors to Portland might not know who the “The Jantzen Lady” hanging near the luxury suites is. But she was part of an advertisement for a local swimwear purveyor and debuted over the left field wall in 1971 when Providence Park still hosted baseball. She stayed in the outfield until a stadium remodel in 2001 brought her inside to her current location.

Tapping into fans’ enthusiasm

Cory Dolich, Senior Vice President of Business Operations and Marketing for the Portland Timbers

Cory Dolich, Senior Vice President of Business Operations and Marketing for the Portland Timbers, shares behind-the-scenes stories with Delight attendees.

As interesting as the tour was, and as exciting as it was for fans like myself to get down on the pitch, the real stories came from Cory Dolich, Senior Vice President of Business Operations and Marketing for the Portland Timbers. Cory walked us through the Timbers’ approach to marketing a team that already had a 35-year history before even entering Major League Soccer. I mean, what do you focus on when you already have had 100 straight sold-out home games, more than 13,000 people waitlisted for season tickets, and a better than 95% renewal rate?

Cory’s answer: reach. His team is focused on growing the fan base nationally and enhancing the fan experience, especially for those fans who spend years on the waitlist.

Field trip participants got to walk the pitch, get up close to the legendary log that mascot Timber Joey slices after every goal the Timbers score and every “clean sheet” the goalkeeper registers. And at the end of the trip, everyone had their pictures taken with the MLS Cup. (Attendees: here’s the promised link to your photos).

Guy Bourgault with the MLS Championship Cup

Portland Timbers fan Guy Bourgault of Connective DX gets his moment in the spotlight with the MLS Championship Cup.

We learned from Cory that it’s that dedication to the customers—the Timbers’ fans, their tribe—that keeps the seats full and the enthusiasm high. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to win the MLS Cup, but Timbers fans are far from fair-weathered. Building upon that passion through year-round engagement is how you maintain your fan base and keep them moving… Onward.