Can you tell us a little bit about the “Decision 2012” campaign that was recently launched?
“First of all, we’re really excited about this campaign. We feel this gives the organization a unique platform to proactively reach out to the entire Greater Atlanta community. The ultimate goal here is to create more awareness around professional soccer in the city. Prior to launching, we met with nearly every major media outlet in the city, and received some very positive feedback.
Additionally, the campaign gives us an excellent way to get out in the community to as many events and places as possible. We want to reach everyone, not just soccer fans, because our goal is to get as many new people as we can talking about the team. We feel we have a comprehensive plan to achieve positive results.”
Why is the organization leaving such a huge decision up to the community?
“We’re carrying out this campaign because we think it’s important to give our fans and others in the community a voice. It’s something that came up internally, and we figured that we’d rather have the fans decide than debate amongst ourselves. It’s not everyday that fans of a professional sports team get to be a part of a decision of this magnitude, and that was attractive to us. I think in this day and age, a lot of professional teams have lost touch with their fans through a lack of community involvement. This is a great opportunity to connect with our fans and have them engaged in what we’re doing as an organization.”
What was the reasoning behind including the Chiefs name as one of the voting choices?
“The Chiefs name came about following the return of the NASL and some its iconic brands currently competing in the league. We already have the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies, and next season, we’ll have the New York Cosmos. Particularly after the Cosmos announcement, people started talking about the old Chiefs days in Atlanta. As we looked into the Chiefs and who they were, we realized that they essentially represented the start of soccer in the state of Georgia. We hosted Chiefs Legacy Night as one of our gameday promotions, honoring former players and coaches, and it was very well-received.
We just felt that they deserved a place on the ballot given their incredible tradition and rich history. Not a lot of people realize that they brought this city their first ever professional sports title. There are a number of storylines related to the Chiefs that people may not know about, and so I think by doing this campaign, it’ll bring light to how important they were to our sport.”
By carrying out the campaign, does this mean the front office wasn’t a fan of the Silverbacks name?
“That’s not the case at all. The Silverbacks have a great history – one that started in 1998. The campaign isn’t meant to take away from the hard work that was put into building the Silverbacks brand. If the community decides that they want to keep the Silverbacks name, we’re 100% behind that and hopefully this campaign will have ended up growing that brand even further beyond where it was when the campaign started.
Again, with the Rowdies and Strikers going back to their old NASL roots a few years ago and the Cosmos coming into the league, there were a lot of internal and external conversations that posed the question about rebranding with the Chiefs name. We thought it was an interesting consideration, but ultimately we felt that it was something that the fans should decide.“
There is a write-in option on the ballot too - what are the possibilities of a one of those name suggestions actually winning?
“If there is a name that gets a significant number of write-in votes, similar to what happened in Seattle with the Sounders, we’re fully prepared to publish that name and add it to the ballot. This is a truly open campaign, and we’re going to respect any name suggestion that comes in.”
Have the Silverbacks looked at the costs associated with rebranding?
“We have fully evaluated the cost of a brand switch, knowing the potential for it. I can tell you that it’s actually minimal in the grand scheme of things. We were already planning on updating or editing a lot of the items associated with the brand, including the logo, so a lot of the costs people may be thinking about were already budgeted for.”
Do you see this campaign as a distraction from putting a winning product on the field next season?
“We’re fully committed to the team’s success. In our opinion, this is in no way a distraction from that. As everyone saw, we finished the season stronger than any other team in the league. In fact, had we been playing under the future split-season format, we would have had a shot at a place in the title game going into the final week of this season. I think it’s clear that by bringing in guys like Eric Wynalda and Brian Haynes, we take the on-field product very seriously. We’re committed to forming relationships like that for the long haul.”
Is this campaign serving as the starting point for a long offseason full of promotion and community/fan involvement?
“We’re going to be busy this offseason – there is no doubt about that. We envision this campaign serving as the launching pad for an exciting offseason. With the staff we have in place and the commitment everyone in the organization shows, I think we can achieve a lot before next season. Our goal is to make professional soccer in Atlanta something very special, and if you look at what San Antonio was able to do within our league this past season, it’s clear that NASL teams can do big things. We fully plan on being the next team in the league to turn heads.”