You don't have to look too far for an article about the Cascadia rivalry that has pit the Seattle Sounders against the expansion Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. We have been lucky enough to enjoy several matches in Seattle over the last two seasons and can say all of the hype about fan support for their respective team is likely true. So just how far are Seattle fans willing to go to support their team?
During the off-season Portland announced that a jersey sponsorship deal had been struck with Alaska Airlines, honestly I thought that was a great fit and an excellent partner for the new MLS team. Then I see on the Timbers' website this morning the winners of the "Paint-the-Plane" contest where the winning designs are going to be plastered on the side of a Boeing 737 and put into service in May. Again, an excellent idea to further expand the marketing footprint of both brands, the very essence of a sponsorship deal in sports. But wait a second; isn't Alaska Airlines based out of Seattle (which is another oddity for an airline with Alaska in its name)? That means that although the airline provides regular service to/from Portland, there is a very good chance that this plane will be doing touch and goes at SEA-TAC, thus ferrying die-hard Sounders fans around the country. This begs the question, would a Sounders fan boycott flying on the "Timbers" plane just to show their dedication to the team? Furthermore, would Seattle fans boycott the airline altogether just for the sake of team pride? It hasn't happened yet, but when the plane enters service in May I can guarantee that at least one fan will make the news over this very issue. Could this whole sponsorship deal backfire for Alaska Airlines and actually hurt its market share in the biggest MLS city (by match attendance) in its system?
I have to preface this and say that I, myself, am a die-hard Sounders fan. I spent this past weekend in New Jersey sporting my Seattle green kit through the streets of Hoboken on match weekend. I've had the chance to experience a number of matches at QWest and there is no question about fan loyalty; Seattle breathes Sounders soccer. But every trip I have made in and out of SEA-TAC has been on Alaska Airlines and as a frequent flyer I actually look forward to the opportunity to fly Alaska. They offer the only non-stop service from Seattle to Orlando (my former home) and that alone made me a fan of the airline. But I have to admit, if that Timbers plane pulled up to the gate I would be slightly peeved that the Portland fans were getting the best of me. Honestly, with Alaska Airlines servicing the entire Pacific Northwest it would be a great opportunity for them to partner with MLS and include painted planes for Seattle and Vancouver as well.
We'll keep our eyes to the skies starting in May to see what result the Timbers plane has on Seattle.
[On a side note, we have been out of commission at "The Scoring Third" for the last few months and we appreciate you sticking with us. The birth of a new child, moving 1400 miles, and starting new jobs have taken their toll on our blog, but rest assured we are getting back into things. Stay tuned...]