As Major League Soccer prepares to launch its 24th season on March 2, a league focus remains on driving digital innovation.
MLS and Twitter unveiled the first full league set of team hashtags and emojis on Monday. While other leagues beat it to the punch with a full set of team hashtags, MLS has brought them into the real world with a set of team scarves. Each team will receive a few scarves for content opportunities and potential giveaways.
MLS Director of Social Melissa Marchionna said the scarves help up the ante just enough for the news.
“We’re always trying to do something different,” Marchionna said. “We saw a lot of great content from fellow leagues and businesses and we just wanted to take it up a notch.
“We’re really excited about the scarves, which add something tangible and reflective of the soccer experience. They’re such a dynamic piece of the stadium experience.”
MLS first used team hashtags for the four conference finalists last year during the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, which included Sporting KC, New York Red Bulls, Portland Timbers and the champion Atlanta United.
While the exact social media lift that the hashtags created is tough to measure, Marchionna said the implementation was a success in creating more opportunities for content and drive traffic to the regular Twitter broadcasts.
“We knew we wanted to get them for everybody,” she said. “We were excited to see fans having fun with the emojis, sharing them. It’s a moment of pride and that’s what we’re always looking for.”
To bring the project together, the MLS digital team worked with each team and Twitter to develop a hashtag and emoji that reflects each team.
“These emojis are a badge of honor, and we’re hoping fans use them more than they would without an emoji,” Marchionna said.
Last year, MLS and Twitter signed a three-year deal for weekly programming, including matches and features.
Marchionna said the two organizations have plenty of synergies, especially when it comes to how they think through ideas and innovate. She said it’s great to work with all digital platforms, but Twitter offers a similarly nimble partner constantly striving to level up operations.
Last season, MLS and Twitter partnered to provide fans the opportunity to take live photos at a game between the LA Galaxy and Los Angeles FC. The fan-operated camera was located by a corner flag at StubHub Center by submitting a #LALookIn hashtag. A photo was then taken and sent as a reply.
Twitter representatives are similarly excited about working with colleagues at MLS to further connect supporters to their clubs through digital means.
“We love partnering with MLS, who continue to share Twitter’s passion for providing unique opportunities for fans to engage with their favorite clubs,” said Will Exline, sports partnerships manager at Twitter. “Not only is this the first time each MLS club will have a season-long custom emoji, they’ve bridged the digital and physical world by printing out the hashtags and emojis on scarves to bring the activation to life.”
The bridging between the digital and physical world is an aspect Marchionna said the MLS content teams generally try to accomplish. In the 24th season, which the league has high hopes for, Marchionna said the team will look to create impressive content and to push boundaries to further strengthen an already strong visual identity. She hinted at strong content pieces on MLS channels and with broadcast partners.
“We’re just excited about all kinds of social and digital content for distribution,” she said. “Bigger and better — that reflects our brand.”
As Marchionna pushes her team to constantly improve and be innovative, she said meetings don’t stop at a good idea.
“That’s our backup if what we do doesn’t work,” she said. “Good is never good enough.”