By Wes Harris
When it was first announced that Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson was invited to tryout for Sporting KC, I certainly had my doubts. I thought it was just another publicity stunt for Ochocinco, and a way to get his name recognized and talked about while there was so much turmoil surrounding the impending NFL lockout. After reading multiple articles and interviews, and simply observing the social media effect surrounding Ochocinco’s tryout, I have a new opinion.
Seeing the amount of media attention that was given to this event, I realized what a great little stint this was for Sporting KC. People were talking about Ochocinco playing for Sporting KC left and right. I saw at least three articles a day covering the topic and it was all over twitter, facebook, and the rest of the social media world. Whether they were trying to figure out what the scheme behind the ordeal was, trying to figure out what position Ochocinco would play if he made the team, or laughing at his rusty soccer skills, people were talking about Sporting KC and Ochocinco. And that’s just the point: People were talking about it, and it was on their minds.
After training with the team for several weeks, even playing in a game for Sporting KC’s reserve squad, Ochocinco was named an “honorary member” of the organization. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, the football stud commented on his experience:
“I just played in a match for a professional soccer team,” Ochocinco said. “It doesn’t get any better than that. What is everybody else (in the NFL) doing? … I’ve seen two people get in trouble with the law … I’m playing soccer … I can get better, stay fit, continue to stay active instead of being home on my butt.”
Ochocinco took the opportunity to stay fit during the tumultuous times with the NFL, and obviously also got his name out there in a positive fashion. It was a win/win situation for Chad.
There’s the old adage “any press is good press”, which you can choose to believe or not. Look at Charlie Sheen. His meltdown and demise has garnered more media attention than any other celebrity in the last few months in my opinion. Every radio talk show, late night show, newspaper, and magazine wants to cover his shenanigans. But people were talking about him and he was on their minds.
It’s a similar concept for Sporting KC, but with a slightly more favorable situation than Mr. Sheen. They were blowing up the social media sites, soccer blogs, ESPN, and any other site that covered the beautiful game. Everyone, soccer fan or not, knew what was going on in Kansas City. This is the part that is the huge win for the club. The event attracted some new people to their brand, and talking about their club. This is the kind of recognition that the MLS could use more of in their marketing campaigns. This doesn’t mean that every team should have Ochocinco or T.O. come try out for their teams. It just means that clubs should be looking for new ways to cross promote with other sports to get soccer in front of a new audience, which can only benefit their brand and their club.