Been a while since I’ve posted! All has been quiet on the Eleven front — at least in public news. I’m sure they’ve been quite busy. And that’s about to bear fruit with a major announcement slated for next Tuesday. The team is holding a “First on the First” event on October 1 at the Rathskeller, “unveiling three major club announcements in one fell swoop.”
First — if you can, click on over to the registration page and make plans to be there. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it, unfortunately, but it should be a good time and I’ll bet it’ll be interesting material. But what exactly do we think they could announce?
Names on the front of the kit
Well, we know that they’ll be announcing a jersey sponsor. All they’ve said is that it’ll be a “major corporate sponsor.” That’s a big piece of news for any team, most importantly because of the money it brings in. But it’s also a good indicator of how the team is perceived in the corporate world, and how widely they expect it to be watched. Back in June, I shared my thoughts on the Cosmos’ partnership with Fly Emirates — a big partnership for a NASL team. The Eleven are probably not going to have a signing quite that big; Indianapolis isn’t quite the global market that New York is. But who might be the partnership? There’s a few different dimensions to consider.
Who sponsors a jersey? The sponsors for the other current NASL teams are a really mixed bunch, from major international companies to three with no sponsors. (Maybe they received additional consideration from the kit manufacturers for sole branding rights?)
- New York: Fly Emirates (airline)
- Tampa Bay: Mainsail Suites (conference center)
- San Antonio: Toyota (car manufacturer)
- Carolina: Blue Cross/Blue Shield (insurance)
- FC Edmonton: Sears Financial (financial services)
- Minnesota: none
- Fort Lauderdale: none
- Atlanta: none
Tampa Bay is the only real outlier with a decidedly local sponsor; the others either have national brands sponsoring or no sponsors. A few do have local connections — Toyota is building a new plant near San Antonio, for example.
So who will Indy get? Given the buzz and the front-office skill, I’m confident that the team will get a sponsor with a national presence. The big question for me here is whether they’ll be able to build from a local connection. The biggest local possibilities are Lilly and Rolls Royce. That’s certainly a possible connection, though I don’t think that either has a major consumer branding need. (Lilly is a complicated case.) Other local presences include Exact Target, Roche, Angie’s List, Klipsch, Subaru, Honda, and Cummins. Of course, if it’s a national company, it could be just about anyone in a certain size range (big but not TOO big). My bet — particularly given that Indy isn’t a real national marketing nexus — is that the team will grab one of those localish options to play a bit bigger than they could otherwise. We will see next Tuesday.
The rest of the kit
We got a tipoff on the second announcement today; the Eleven will also be unveiling the jersey designs on Tuesday. That’s good news too, and a very big deal for most fans. The jersey is the biggest part of the team identity — especially when it has a distinctive identity, like the red and yellow hoops of Fort Lauderdale, or green with yellow-striped sleeves of Tampa Bay. We’ll get our first look at that Tuesday, and that’s a big deal.
What will we see? The team colors are red, white, and blue, and I would expect a home kit that’s based on the darker colors. My favorite concepts are either a halved kit like Blackburn Rovers, or a quartered kit like Bristol Rovers. The vertical bars of Crystal Palace might work too. All these would echo the Indianapolis Flag (also referenced in the Eleven crest) and would give us a visual identity different from the other NASL teams.
The other name on the front of the kit
With the jersey announcement will also come an announcement of a jersey manufacturer. I’m just not sure whether that would be big enough to be one of the ‘big three’ announcements. The current NASL lineup shows a bit of a mix:
- Nike: New York, San Antonio
- Adidas: Carolina, Edmonton
- Admiral Sportswear: Tampa Bay, Minnesota
- Reto Sports: Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta
Adidas might have a bit of an edge, with a local production facility, but really it could be anyone, including manufacturers (or brands) not on this list, big or small. I’m not a fan of the Nike soccer designs (either aesthetically or functionally), but that’s just a tepid dislike, and otherwise I don’t think it’ll matter much. Still interesting, though.
So, if that’s not the third announcement, what else might we see?
A name on the back of the kit
Could the team announce its first player signing? It’s unlikely. Most players are under contract somewhere, all of which run through the current season — end of October for MLS; end of May for most European teams. College players can’t sign anything professional until they’re done with their college career. So it’s unlikely to see any players announced until November or December at the earliest.
And yet! Juergen Sommers has hinted before that his first signing might be a veteran goalkeeper. There might be a candidate currently out of contract who could fit the bill. (And a keeper is more likely than any other player to come back after a year or two out of the game.) And there might be others. Mind you, this is very unlikely — finding a veteran keeper who isn’t currently under contract, but could still be a good first signing for the club. Still, if you gave me say 25-1 odds, I’d take them.
Based on previous statements, we’re not far away from finalizing ticket arrangements. That would look something like a seating chart, and plans for season ticket holders to choose their seats. I would expect something of an event around that, possibly at Carroll Stadium, but maybe it’ll be wrapped into Tuesday’s spectacular. Either way, it should be here by November or so, so we won’t have to wait too long. My guess is that we’re currently waiting for the club to hit a target on season ticket commitments — either 7,000, if that’s within reach, or maybe another round number like 6,000 or 6,500. (Remember, 7,000 is the announced max number of season tickets the team will sell.)
Carroll Stadium isn’t a bad place to start, but Ersal Ozdemir has made it clear he wants to build a soccer-specific stadium, preferably close to downtown. When I went to my first “Build the Brickyard” event, in May, there was a good bit of speculation on possible locations and design. At the second event, in July, all lips were sealed. That could mean a few things, but the most optimistic reading is that the conversation is getting serious.
Could we see an announcement of stadium plans? I don’t think so. That would rate its own event, and would bring in the mayor at least. Still, it would be a big deal, and worthy of top billing, even over a jersey announcement. I had read a rumor of a site on the northeast side of downtown, which was just plausible enough to make me consider it might be real. But it was nothing I would take too seriously just yet. My best guess is that these things will take some time, and that we might be lucky to see an announcement before the team kicks off next April. Still, we can dream.
What other stuff could fall into the mix for next Tuesday?
Preseason matches: This might be a fun one. Of course all teams look for profitable (and exciting) friendly matches to kick off the season, and the Eleven would want to do a bit more than that to mark their first season. I could see announcing a match with the Chicago Fire (for example) as a team launch event. Unfortunately, the timing pretty much rules out the European teams, as they’ll be in the heart of their seasons.
There could even be a preseason tournament — bringing maybe three other teams to Indy for a quick seasons’ launch. That would have to be held in Lucas Oil, I’d guess, but if you bring in some bigger South American or MLS sides, it could work. Might be a bit early to have that kind of thing worked out yet.
Coaching staff: This should start to come together fairly soon, but I don’t think it’ll be a huge deal as we already have Sommer in place. I just don’t see it as the kind of thing the team would throw an event like this for.
Other sponsorships: These will come, but it’s not likely to be of a magnitude that would match a jersey launch. There will be the warm-up kit sponsor, the official hospital, the official beer, and so forth. All fun, but these wouldn’t be worth special attention at the level of the jersey and jersey-front sponsor.
Mascot: Yes, there will be one. Hopefully it won’t be too cheesy, but it’s not designed for me; it’s for the kids. We will see it announced eventually, but likely not Tuesday… unless there’s a very strong sponsor connection.
Enough speculation — we’ll find out (likely tomorrow). But still there’s plenty of good stuff to come in the near future. I suspect we’ll see regular news from the team from now through the holidays, as the team works on building enthusiasm for next April. I’m all in!