Soccer Impact Yet to Be Seen

All Quiet on the Football Front as New Season Approaches

Saputo Stadium, home of the Impact, is yet to see any advertisements and still displays their old logo. photo by David Murphy

On Mar. 3 the Montreal Impact play a historic first match against cross-nation rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Confused already? You’re not alone. Allow me to fill you in.

The Impact is Montreal’s only professional soccer team, and they’re heading into their inaugural season in Major League Soccer—the largest soccer league in North America and home of David Beckham. And believe it or not, some people actually care about the Impact.
Well, perhaps that’s not entirely true.

The group of supporters behind the net at every Impact game—called the ‘Ultras’—probably care. But other than them, the upcoming season doesn’t appear to be garnering attention. There’s no sense of growing anticipation.
This is a stark contrast to the build-up to the Vancouver Whitecaps’ first season in MLS, which started this time last year.

When I was in Vancouver then, posters dominated the city and radio ads filled the airwaves. It was hard not to know soccer was coming to town.  

The Portland Timbers, who also entered the league last year, had posters of busty women with saws as props tantalizing the downtown core in late 2010.

The Whitecaps took this tactic a step further and body painted a naked blonde with their new and improved jersey, slapped her on a banner the size of two semi-trucks, hung it off a five-storey building on the busiest street in the city, and ran a YouTube campaign about it.

This created controversy and had their Facebook page buzzing—some said it was a classless move to display giant, mountainous breasts in a populous area, while others said it was a healthy distraction from the less-titillating North Shore Mountains.

Whether it was socially acceptable or not, it inspired a province-wide discussion and soccer was on everyone’s radar.

While these teams were, in tried-and-true business fashion, spending money to make money in early 2011, the official Impact Facebook page doesn’t even have a wall yet.

In fact, according to Montreal Impact media relations, they aren’t even done finalizing details for their 2012 marketing campaign.

The Whitecaps are a mile ahead with their ‘Round 2’ ad campaign already hitting the town and on social media platforms. The only sports conversation in Montreal is why the Canadiens are still stuck in the basement of the Eastern Conference, instead of a new beginning in a sport that’s proven more popular than hockey amongst Canadian kids.

Tapping into a sports market that is craving low ticket prices is something Montrealers have been looking for ever since the Expos left town for Washington, and not jumping on the chance to engage these sports-starved fans is like standing over an oil reservoir and setting up a lemonade stand.

When the Impact’s marketing campaign finally shows up, however, it better be good. It has to capture the attention of non-soccer lovers and they have to go above and beyond naked women with painted-on jerseys to have an actual impact, and make up for lost time.

Nothing would be more embarrassing than having a losing hockey team, a metro system that breaks down all the time, and a losing soccer team that no one goes to see.

Who are we, Toronto?