Oct 03, 2011 at 03:44 PM
written by Kris Mathis

Turkish Soccer Team Turns Man Ban Into Sponsorship Opportunity

While at breakfast with a Turkish friend who avidly follows soccer in his former home country and is a big fan of a team I'd never heard of called Fenerbah├že, I was told about a fascinating story I wanted to relay to our readers.

As many of you know, soccer matches sometimes result in stadium violence. A few weeks ago, fans took this to the extreme and it spilled onto the field in Istanbul with fans actually attacking players and refs. To make a point about in-stadium violence, Turkish Football Federation officials said that the next two games would be played with no fans in the stadium. Take a second to imagine what it would be like playing in an empty stadium? But after some discussion, officials decided rather than playing without fans, they would only open the stadium gates to women and children. The result? 41,000 fans packed into Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul, singing and cheering on both the home team and visitors to a 1-1 tie.

From a sponsorship perspective, some of the sponsors in stadium likely didn't resonate very well with the audience on that night, but the event is an interesting case study for customizing environments to expand, and cater to, untapped demographics. Often times, marketers are constrained by pre-concieved notions fostered by broad-based demographic studies. Rather than trying to expand the demographic reach by carving out unique environments specifically designed to a particular audience, sales execs assume there's not a fit. In doing so, they may be missing out an opportunity to expand appeal to sponsors and categories that may have been previously dismissive of the opportunity. Sometimes demos can be deceiving.

The match was considered such a success that the team has now decided to devote a 470-seat sponsored section of the stadium to women. The sponsor for the section will be mobile phone network, Fenercell, which will give away seats to female clients of the mobile carrier.

Not surprisingly, according to this article from The Guardian, sales of women's merchandise have doubled recently.