Monday, December 17, 2007

Youth Soccer and Viral Marketing

My beloved wife and I spent our weekend watching one of our daughters compete in the Norcal Cup soccer tournament. I have two daughters and both of them have recently joined a terrific club in Palo Alto called the Union Football Club (UFC). UFC ( is run by a family of former soccer professionals (Gary, Carine, Simon and Vic Ireland) very close to the Women’s US National Team, Stanford Soccer and Julie Foudy. They support the “Right To Play” program: Right To Play is an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play as a tool for the development of children and youth in the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Right To Play is committed to improving the lives of these children and to strengthening their communities by translating the best practices of sport and play into opportunities to promote development, health and peace. Also, UFC recently had John Owens, assistant academy director from Liverpool FC, as a guest coach.

My point is that this club is actively connecting on a worldwide scale. So, how is it possible for a relatively small soccer club to run such a quality program with global reach? This is the question that I was pondering while driving back from the game…

My first thought was that due to their total passion and dedication for the kids and soccer they had created a very viral marketing program by default! Then, I decided to check how those who had coined the term viral marketing , actually defined it. According to Steve Jurvetson, the term was coined in a Netscape newsletter in 1997 and defined loosely as “network-enhanced word of mouth”. One of the critical elements of viral marketing is that every customer becomes an involuntary salesperson by using the product. So far, so good, UFC is definitely viral as every player tries to bring their friends over! Technically, it’s called usage affiliation. However, Steve Jurvetson goes on to say, using Hotmail as an example, that their subscriber base grew from zero to 12 million users in 18 months, and that from a memetic engineering perspective, viral marketing takes place when an idea spreads like an adaptive virus.

All right, all right, may be it doesn’t have quite the necessary scale to be called viral marketing. May be it was just plain silly of me to try to codify this club’s success in marketing terms. What really matters is that the coaches have tremendous skills, dedication and gumption and that the kids love them. Now that I think about it, a more appropriate analysis should have been framed in the context of “Zen and the Art of Youth Soccer Coaching”, an exploration into the Metaphysics of soccer quality!

No comments: