Those free tickets you might have received or heard about for FC Cincinnati’s match against Pittsburgh two weeks ago weren’t just giveaways to boost attendance figures.
Local businesses, agencies and organizations have been showing their support for the first-year United Soccer League club by buying blocks of tickets, which they often give away.
FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding said a handful of companies — some of whom also are corporate sponsors and others who are not — have stepped up to help promote the team in this way.
It doesn’t happen every week, he said, but ownership’s push to reach 25,000 fans May 14 against Pittsburgh added incentive for businesses to step up to help reach that goal, and some did. Berding isn’t aware of any such blocks sold for Saturday’s game against Harrisburg City (4-5-1), when FCC (5-2-2) looks to improve on a 1-1 draw in its last meeting with the Islanders.
“We’ve had companies buy tickets and in some cases give them away to employees, clients or do things like raffles,” Berding said. “It’s usually something like 50 to 100 tickets, which they are paying full price for and then leveraging tickets to create good will with different audiences.”
The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce was one group that bought a block of tickets to the team’s last USL home game when FCC beat Pittsburgh 1-0 in front of a United Soccer League-record crowd of 23,375 fans at Nippert Stadium.
Chamber director of communications Rich Walburg said he wasn’t sure how many tickets the agency bought, but the tickets were given away to employees, participants in the Chamber’s leadership programs and nonprofit organizations in promotion of talent development and as a way to say “thank you.”
The Chamber also has season tickets.
“They are an outstanding example of what defines the Cincinnati region,” Walburg said. “With things like the Startup Cincy program, we want to support any new entrepreneurship opportunity and other startups and help bring new business to the region. It's great to not only root for them but promote new entrepreneurship through our support.”
Berding noted the number of tickets being given away by local businesses is minimal in the grand scheme of things for a team averaging 17,458 fans per USL home game, but the support from local businesses overall “has been fantastic.”
The club’s list of sponsors continues to grow and is now up to 37 recognized on the FC Cincinnati website.
“We’ve had tremendous support from some businesses run by civic-minded people who view FC Cincinnati as an exciting new opportunity to help further put Cincinnati on the stage and make us more recognizable as a fun place to live and play,” Berding said. “They want us to succeed, and one way they can do that is by buying a block of tickets at full price and leverage them. Maybe it gets some of their employees buying tickets down the road.”
FC Cincinnati announced Friday morning it had surpassed 10,000 tickets sold for Saturday’s game against Harrisburg City, a mark the club has reached in every USL home game so far. Berding said he would be surprised if attendance ended up being more than 20,000, but with good weather — something the club really has only enjoyed for one game — there could be a nice walkup crowd to help boost the numbers.
FCC has been so overwhelmed by the fan support so far that it recently hired a ticket sales manager and will add four seasonal sales representatives within the next couple of weeks. The hope for 10,000 fans a game is no longer a goal, but more of an expectation.
“We’re going to have games like the (U.S.) Open Cup (May 18) with 8,800 and some midweek games that might be in the 10,000 range, but in terms of what we want to draw game in and game out, basically, if it’s between 10,000 and 15,000, we’re more than happy with that,” Berding said.
“That’s the range we’ve had for most of our games, and that’s far surpassing what we anticipated and planned for. We appreciate the community support for us and the warm embrace we’ve been given and hope it continues to show at our games.”