This weekend the Fire made wine out of vinegar through a number of key events in the community. The Fire front office has clearly embraced the concept of bringing the Fire to the city to drum up support for the club in Chicago at large. With the Friday match against Sporting Kansas City out of the way there were three opportunities for fans connect with the Fire and its players over the late August weekend. Sometimes if you can’t bring the fans to the Fire, you have to bring the Fire to the fans.
Practice in the community
First was the well-advertised 3rd Annual Practice in the Community presented by the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart Field. The event was held on Saturday August 24th from 10 am to 1 pm and gave fans in Chicago to get up close and personal with a live Fire practice session. Quickly becoming an annual tradition of the Fire, the event provides inner city fans an inroad to gain interest in the club and a method to reach soccer fans that might not be as aware or committed to Major League Soccer in Chicago. Fan’s had an opportunity after the practice to meet players and get autographs signed. This is a fun event each year and it is definitely the direction the Fire need to be going in marketing wise, and should be applauded by fans of the Fire.
A second exciting event was Brazil Fest Chicago. Held in what (in my opinion) is the best neighborhood in Chicago, Logan Square. At the event which was held on Sunday the 25th two Brazilian Chicago Fire players, midfielder Alex Monteiro De Lima and forward Maicon Santos, participated in a meet-and-greet with fans. Planning this event was a savvy move by the Fire front office. It goes without saying that the vast Brazilian population is Chicago is a committed group of football fans, Brazil having one of the most popular national teams in the world. By sending Alex and Santos out as representatives of the club the Fire have opened up a vast network of potential Fire fans in Chicago. This was solid planning by the Fire.
Milkman delivers at Aldi
A third event, and the one I was able to attend, was to see the Milk Man Sean Johnson who was signing Autographs at Aldi, Sunday, August 25, at the 3320 W Belmont location in Chicago. The event was sponsored by Aldi and radio station LaLey 107.9 FM. Fans were given the opportunity to get autographs and a photo with the world class goalkeeper while LaLey shared some tunes in their DJ booth. Sean was very gracious with his time at this low key event and took time out to speak with fans and sign autographs for people in the community. Fire fans had a chance to meet the player while they cashed in their free milk coupon from Friday’s clean sheet. Overall it was another great example of bringing the Fire to the community.
The Fire front office is clearly catching a lot of heat from fans right now given the letter from Communication Director Dan Lobring and the club’s continued backing of Lobring even after the public’s reaction. Despite these mixed feelings it is still important to recognize the team when it takes steps to reach out to the community and expand the fan base in the Chicagoland area. I appreciate the efforts of Chicago Fire players such as Johnson, Alex and Santos to draw in new fans to the support the club and thank the front office for recognizing the importance of planning these events. It was a great weekend for Fire Outreach!