By Barry Janoff
July 30, 2013: Major League Soccer and its marketing partners will be all up in your face as the league takes time off from the 2013 season to put on the AT&T MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday night.
The game, which will feature MLS All-Stars vs.AS Roma, is being played in Sporting Park, the home of the Kansas City (MO) Sporting club that previously was known as LivesStrong Sporting Park.
It was apropos that the days leading up to the game included a concert by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, whose signature hit, "Can't Hold Us," contains lyrics that seem to define the future of MLS: "Tonight is the night, we'll fight till it's over/So we put our hands up like the ceiling can't hold us."
In addition to AT&T, MLS partners that have activated and/or have a presence on-site include adidas, Allstate, Aquafina, Budweiser, Bimbo, Castrol, Continental Tire, EA Sports, Gatorade, The Home Depot, Microsoft Xbox, Panasonic, Pepsi, Quaker, Red Bull, Visa and Volkswagen.
In addition to serving as the game's title sponsor, AT&T has been hosting a five-day MLS All-Star fan fest, with activities in the Power and Light District in downtown Kansas City.
Concerts sponsored by partners such as AT&T-Blackberry Pepsi have included Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, as well as Silversun Pickups.
Among other events were the Volkswagen 5K Jersey Run, a Castrol "Lead Up to World Cup" feestyle event, The Home Depot Chalk Talk Series and an EA Sports Pro Player Tournament.
During the game itself, players will be wearing limited-edition miAdidas boots from the league's official kit supplier.
"One of the things that's distinctive about MLS is our fan-driven culture," said Howard Handler, CMO for MLS, regarding the league's marketing activations.
Which is a big part of why league executives see a bright future for the league.
"[It's] not our dream, but a vision . . . to be one of the top leagues in the world by 2022," MLS commissioner Don Gerber wrote during a Twitter-hosted Q&A on Monday. Gerber defined "top league" as the "quality of our play, passion of our fans, relevance of [our] clubs and [the] overall economic strength of [the] league [and its] clubs."
Earlier this month, Electronic Arts and MLS joined for an AT&T MLS All-Star "In the Game" challenge, which gave people worldwide the opportunity to vote one forward into the All-Star Game by playing and scoring goals in EA Sports FIFA Soccer 13 on the Xbox 360 PlayStation 3 and PC.
One goal equaled one vote and, according to EA Sports, players totaled 488,611 goals that counted as votes. Marco Di Vaio of the Montreal Impact had 73,838 goals for the win. The Los Angeles Galaxy's Robbie Keane came in second with 69,797 goals.
"[MLS is growing because of the] quality of our play, passion of our fans, relevance of [our] clubs and [the] overall economic strength of [the] league [and its] clubs."
"I think it really pulls on the heartstrings and the passion points of the fans and their favorite players to be able to actually act through the FIFA game and have those actions impact the selection of that 11th player," David Wright, svp-global sponsorship for MLS, said in a statement. "To ultimately see that play out on July 31 against AS Roma is kind of the final culmination."
According to John Sondag, president for AT&T Missouri, “AT&T is thrilled to help bring such stellar acts as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, as well as Silversun Pickups, to the heart of Kansas City as part of our sponsorship of this year’s AT&T MLS All-Star Game festivities. This reflects our ongoing, growing commitment to help bring people together, and keep them connected on our blazing-fast 4G LTE network whether they are at home, work, a soccer game or anywhere in between.”
The match will be televised live on ESPN2, UniMas and in Canada on TSN and RDS starting at 9 PM (EDT) on July 31.
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