Studying MLS’ Austin Market Survey

In December, members of the Austin soccer community received an email invitation from Major League Soccer. In it, they disclosed that they hired the Barrett Sports Group to conduct a survey as one part of a larger evaluation of Austin as a market for an MLS team.

In case you missed it, we also talked about the survey and the state of MLS in Austin on The Throw In Radio program recently. Give it a listen.

The Throw-In Episode 77 with MLS in Austin.

If you didn’t get the survey, we asked the Barrett Sports Group about providing a sharable link. They replied that they are:

“…Trying to get through our current databases and then we will develop a strategy to formally circulate through social media channels and other sources.”

We’re not sure what will happen with the multiple submissions already received via the links shared by individuals and local news outlets.

We can however expect focus group sessions in the near future.

Meanwhile, let’s walk-through and analyze some highlights of the survey…

Introduction

Austin MLS Market Survey — Introduction

MLS is currently evaluating Austin. Yay!

The story here is that it looks like MLS is adding more structure to their market evaluation process as with the addition of each new team, there’s that much less opportunity to join the league.

Greater Market Area

Austin MLS Market Survey — Market Area

This question and the few subsequent ones are clearly trying to establish what market respondents identify with and their geographic location. We understand that people considering themselves part of the San Antonio market also received this survey.

As we continue to state: We love the idea of MLS being in both Austin and San Antonio, but it’s just not realistic. MLS really wants a Texas-3 team (after Dallas and Houston) and is probably trying to determine if there’s the potential to get the city they want (Austin) or just take the city they know they can get (San Antonio). Obviously, we’re a bit biased on this.

Interest in Sports

Austin MLS Market Survey — Sports Interest

The next block of questions focuses on interest levels in soccer and other mainstream sports, including if the respondent is a season ticket holder and/or attends single-games.

What MLS is trying to do here is both establish people’s commitment to sports in the market as well as understand where soccer fans buying power might already be spent. For example: If you have season tickets to the Round Rock Express and like soccer, are you likely to also buy season tickets to the MLS club or will you not buy season tickets to MLS if you already invest your sports money into baseball season tickets?

Interest in MLS

Austin MLS Market Survey — MLS Awareness and Attitude

The next section is all about MLS:

  • Familiarity
  • Interest
  • Frequency of watching on television
  • Favorite teams
  • Interest in International teams
  • MLS matches attended
Austin MLS Market Survey — MLS TV Watched

The television questions are very important. TV markets and ratings for matches significantly impact the league’s revenue from television contracts. Austin does very well in the national television ratings for US national team matches. This is a big opportunity for Austin, we’re a popular city in other markets and outside of Texas Longhorn games, us locals don’t have any other opportunity to watch the home team nationally. However, as a smaller market in the short-term, the league will need to know that fans will be tuning in.

The Austin Aztex

Austin MLS Market Survey — Austin Aztex

Some questions on the familiarity with the Aztex and attendance. There’s importance in understanding how much of the survey distribution was aware of and attended the single-season, USL-squad’s matches.

Support for MLS in Austin

Austin MLS Market Survey — Support for Austin MLS Team

Here. It. Is.: Will you, dear survey taker, support an MLS team in Austin, Texas?

While people in SA will clearly torpedo this in their survey, we’re curious how the more jaded and cynical Austin soccer fans might answer. That would be those still holding on to Euro-snobbery or those whose faith has been shaken by the string of failed incarnations of local soccer clubs.

Stadium Attributes

Austin MLS Market Survey — Stadium Attributes

A number of questions on attributes that would be important to have in a stadium, ranging from shaded seats to AC areas to parking. The options are interesting and seems to indicate some stadium concepts are being evaluated. It’s important to note that the MLS season goes from March to November. In Austin, this means rainy springs, 100-plus degree summers, and cool fall evenings. An outdoor venue needs to be adaptable to all of these.

Austin MLS Market Survey — Stadium Location

Of course, where to build the stadium is a hot topic to any local soccer fan. While downtown is ideal, land is expensive and buying a large enough footprint is tricky. A number of near-downtown locations are listed, and of course the most probable location of near CotA is listed too. Round Rock seems to be a non-starter from most of the feedback we’ve gathered.

Tickets and Seating

Austin MLS Market Survey — Seating

This was by far the largest section of questions. They ranged from pricing and interest in Luxury Boxes, Loge Boxes, Club seating, and other seating sections around the stadium. This information is key for two reasons: Much of the individual club’s revenue is from tickets and most of the money that a local market receives is from ticket revenue and taxes. Gotta show the city council “If you help build it, they will generate tax revenue.”

MLS in Austin Awareness and Support of Other Pro-Sports

Austin MLS Market Survey — Professional Team Support

This section finally pops the:

“…Were you aware Major League Soccer was evaluating the Austin market…”

question. It asked about the respondents belief that the market could potentially have a professional sports team in a number of sports and asked the likelihood of supporting them.

This is an interesting section, because to our knowledge, there is zero-potential for Austin to attract another professional sports franchise in the near or distant future. Austin is the largest U.S. market without a professional sports franchise.

Support of University of Texas Sports

Austin MLS Market Survey — UT Impact

UT will have a lot of influence over whether any pro sports team moves into Austin, These questions are to assess how much of the UT fan base are likely to be activated to support an MLS team and to also show that adding a pro-team will not negatively impact sports at UT. This section asked about alumni status, attendance of UT sports, and perception of the impact on UT adding an Austin-based MLS team would have.

Standard Demographic Data

The survey finished up with your usual demographic questions:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Education Level
  • Occupation
  • Household Income

What to make of it all.

This is just the first step in a series of activities to evaluate the market. It’ll be interesting to see who else locally MLS is engaging with. Stay tuned for updates and please join the MLS in Austin Supporters Community and get involved.


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