How a pink flamingo and Jürgen Klopp helped Forward Madison FC build its brand
It started with a plastic pink flamingo in the snow.
It was January 2019, the Polar Vortex had brought major cities in the United States to a near standstill and Forward Madison FC’s Digital Content Intern Jason Klein thought it would be funny to put a plastic flamingo in the snow for measurement. When Klein first placed the flamingo in its spot, the snow had covered half of it. Within a few days, the flamingo was covered and Forward Madison FC, one of the newest soccer teams in the US, had gone viral.
The engagement on the “Full Mingo” tweet was through the roof — 22 thousand likes and 7.8 thousand retweets. It was picked up by meme accounts on social media and gained international attention. Forward Madison was on the map, even before the team itself had kicked a soccer ball in an official match.
Forward Madison FC, Madison, Wisconsin’s only professional outdoor soccer team, was born into the digital age. The club was announced in May 2018 and is one of the founding members of USL League One — the United Soccer League’s second division league.
#FullMingo is now the team’s — and the fans’ — go to hashtag on Twitter, and the account has gained over 8 thousand followers in just a few months. On a platform with a never-ending feed of sports content, Forward Madison FC quickly built its brand and already found some glory.
“A brand strategy I like to do is building a brand like it’s a real-life person,” explains Director of Fan Engagement and Digital Media Kuba Krzyzostaniak. “If Forward Madison FC was someone on social media, how we would want them to interact with people? A lot of our inspiration was Jürgen Klopp, coach of Liverpool FC, who’s this really beloved figure in the game. Even if you’re not a Liverpool fan, you might still love Jürgen Klopp.”
Just as Jürgen Klopp stands out as a coach, standing out as a team on social media is something that Krzyzostaniak finds especially crucial.
“We knew that being a third division team we have to stand out from the crowd,” he continues. “So if we do something safe, similar to an MLS team, we’re just going to blend right in and be a blimp in this big wave of things that are online.”
So far, this strategy has been working. Forward Madison FC has the attention of Madison residents, 4,462 of which showed up for the team’s inaugural home match — a sell out crowd at Breese Stevens Field. “People kind of feel connected to the team just via a lot of the social posts.”
At the moment, Forward Madison sees themselves as a “startup team” and being a small content team that comprises of Krzyzostaniak and Klein, they are trying to make the most out of the resources and manpower they have. Their social media is focused on the big three — Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — and their aim is to always have something visual accompanying their written content.
“Using WSC is huge for us because we can put together all sorts of highlights, if we want, or we can put it together into something that is more than highlights,” says Klein. “The idea is we can do a normal highlights package, which is sort of plain and not that interesting because we lost and didn’t score a goal, or we could do something a little more fun, so why not do something a little more fun? And by having that video readily available, we were able to do that.”
The international community has quickly caught on as well. There is currently a Forward Madison account in French, run by a woman in Switzerland who reached out to the club on Twitter and built the page herself. Another account, Matt — The English Flamingo, is run by a Mingos fan in England, and there’s a Spanish account as well.
“[The international community] wasn’t the intention exactly, but it’s something that just happened and when it happened we embraced it,” Klein explains. “I think it’s partly a product of our fan engagement, that part of what we want to do is make people feel like they’re a part of this with us, so that means always responding to people, always including them, and then people who become interested in us then develop this closer relationship,if you feel like you’re part of what is going on with the club.”
As a sports team and athlete you always want to be the best, number one. At the moment, Krzyzostaniak is also eyeing second place.
“We kind of built ourselves as the world’s second favorite team,” says Krzyzostaniak. “People reach out to us and are like ‘hey I live in New York and I’m a huge Red Bulls fan but I’m following you guys, you know you’re my second favorite team.’ So wherever you are, you may never make it to Madison, you may never make it to one of our games but we hope that you still follow us on social, you like what we’re doing and you can have some fun with us and support this team on the side.”