Beyond Soccer Series : Powered by streetfootballworld
On June 23rd, Senda had the pleasure of participating in the Beyond Soccer Series in San Francisco, a networking event for soccer organizations and social enterprises empowering them to work together. The event is part of Beyond Sports, a body aimed at inspiring positive social change through sport. The event perhaps couldn’t have occurred at a better time considering the spotlight that the Copa America Centenario shed on soccer in the USA. It was a fantastic opportunity for Senda to connect with local and international organizations and be part of an ongoing conversation about the influence of sport.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JUNE 23: Guests socialize at Beyond Soccer powered by streetfootballworld at SFJAZZ Center on June 23, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
The first hour of the event was a cocktail hour networking opportunity for various guest organizations. Senda was one of many organizations with a table display, including our nonprofit partners, Street Soccer USA and Soccer Without Borders, as well as some other like-minded businesses such as The American Outlaws, and The Third Half. We also had the chance to speak with many local soccer, tech, and socially conscious organizations: San Jose Earthquakes, SF Deltas, SF City FC, Google, Only Six Degrees, Kick4Life, Bay Area Girls Unite, and many more.
Following the networking portion were two panels of speakers in a moderated forum. [Part one of this blog post speaks about the first panel where Amanda Vandervort, Dave Kaval, and Jeffrey Mallet spoke about the intersections between tech innovation and soccer.] Vandervort, vice president of social media and customer relationship management for Major League Soccer (MLS), talked about the power of social media networks, particularly Twitter and Snapchat, as tools to engage fans at specific times. These tools allow users to effectively create a narrative and document their experiences in a way that people can identify with. Utilizing these platforms could be a way for businesses like Senda to move conversations about social responsibility forward.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JUNE 23: A panel including (L-R) Amanda Vandervort, Vice President of Fan Engagement and CRM at MLS, Jeffrey Mallett, co-owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Dave Kaval, President of the San Jose Earthquakes, chats at Beyond Soccer powered by streetfootballworld at SFJAZZ Center on June 23, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Dave Kaval, president of the San Jose Earthquakes, added that the Twitter accounts with the largest number of followers belong to athletes. He proposed a challenge to those athletes to “lead the way, rise to the occasion” and participate in these important conversations about social issues. It just comes to show how the tech industry has a tremendous potential to grow the dialogue and make these topics more inclusive and accessible to people all over the world.
When the panelists were asked if the MLS is taking an entrepreneurial outlook, Kaval answered that “soccer is the only major sport [in the US] that hasn’t been figured out yet.” In other words, there’s room to grow within the MLS, and we need to take an innovative approach to growing soccer in the US in a successful way.
For Jeffrey Mallet, co-owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps and previous investor in Derby County Football Club in England, “the difference between the MLS and the Premier League in England is generational. Your father and mother and uncle all went to games growing up [in England]” and so children grow up with a certain familial attachment to a team and/or the stadium, much in the same way that the other major sports are in the US today. However, in US soccer we are having to create this love and passion for the sport from scratch, and that’s what makes it such a challenge.
The San Jose Earthquakes’ found a way to ignite this passion in their new stadium. “Avaya [was designed to have] social gathering spaces at various points throughout the stadium, including the largest outdoor bar in North America” said Kaval. The design of the stadium takes into account the different ways that fans watch the game, but also the ways they interact with each other. This seems to be an attempt to create a soccer environment that is for everyone, and all inclusive. “That’s the power of sport,” Kaval added.
Furthermore, Kaval believes that professional teams should make an effort to connect with the local community. One way the Earthquakes have attempted to connect with the community is through their shirt sponsor, Sutter Health. They felt that Sutter reflects some core values of the community, as opposed to just any corporate sponsor. Senda has talked a lot about the commercial issue of shirt sponsors. When big clubs in Europe choose shirt sponsors like betting companies, it tarnishes the values of the sport. Senda would much prefer sponsors that allude to a more noble cause, such as Unicef on past Barcelona shirts. For the Earthquakes, these types of values have the potential to turn their stadium into a type of a social mecca and a complete experience rather than just a match venue. At Senda we’ve played with the idea to put the names of our nonprofit partners on jerseys to advocate for the grassroots side of soccer. Donations to nonprofit partners are one way that Senda directly contributes to the local community, reflecting one of the core values that we’ve included in the brand new Senda soccer ball design, “Community,” “Joy,” and “Respect.”
In part two of the Beyond Soccer Series blog post, we will talk about the second panel of speakers: Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe from the US Women’s National Team, and Hel Say of Senda’s local nonprofit partner Soccer Without Borders’ Oakland chapter. Stay tuned!