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Major League Soccer: User-powered content


Open source can represent many things to different people depending on your perspective. When asked to describe New Kind to potential partners, or to my friends and family, I often say that we grew out of the open source movement at Red Hat, and that we now apply those open source principles to other companies and organizations.

As someone who is decidedly not a developer, I think of open source within the context of content creation and building a community around a brand. One of the more dynamic ways to apply open source principles is within the field of user generated content (or UGC).

Major League Soccer completed their 19th season in December, and the league has grown in support and acclaim year over year. Next year they will be relaunching their brand under the theme of MLS Next. We were able to work with them to build out their brand during the playoffs as part of a team focused on promoting the creation of UGC by fans for the clubs that were in the running for MLS Cup. Here are a few a things we learned along the way.

Lesson #1: You never know what the storyline will be

When we began the project it was a safe assumption that the storyline for each game would be driven by the in-game action, but we quickly learned that when you rely on the community to create the content the dominant narrative might be quite different from what you expect — and that’s OK!

The fans of Real Salt Lake proved this lesson early in the playoffs.

I would not have predicted that the story of the game would be related to nature, but so many fans shared stunning images of their view of the sunset that it ended up being the storyline of the game from a user generated content perspective.


Lesson #2: UGC = MOAR UGC

I have to give credit to my friend at Major League Soccer for the header of this lesson.

We found out pretty quickly that sharing user generated content leads to more user generated content. This was particularly evident on Facebook now that they allow in-line photos in comment threads on the platform. When MLS posted the Real Salt Lake video, numerous fans weighed in via Facebook with their own views of the sunset.

Lesson #3: Give credit where credit is due

Each video that was created for the campaign was driven entirely by the fans. It was decided early on that each piece of content would feature the username and user icon of the fan who created the content originally. Beyond being the fairest way to honor the content creator, it also ended up being a genuinely good strategy to drive additional content.

At New Kind, we have long discussed the concept of creating heroes within a brand community, which goes to the core of curating and promoting user generated content. The heroes, as they are acknowledged and spotlighted, tend to end up becoming even more dedicated brand advocates.

This lends itself to creating a loop of content creation and sharing which plays out as follows:

  • Fan creates original content
  • Brand highlights and shares content
  • Fan shares brand sharing their original content — usually with some of form of thank you or acknowledgment

We were honored to work alongside Major League Soccer for the playoffs. They deserve a lot of praise for the way that they engage with fans, the way they tell stories, and their work to re-create the excitement of their in-stadium experience in other venues. Among their more inspired moves was handing over the reigns of their Snapchat account to MLS star Dom Dwyer for a “Snapchat takeover” during the playoffs which generated substantial buzz and feedback over the course of the takeover.

MLS is willing to take creative risks and they put the fans first — the hallmark of a brand that understands that dedicated supporters can assist you in reaching new heights. It was a delight to work with them.


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