Event 67: UCLA Women’s Soccer Match…American University sport is a whole new level

The campus was like walking into a major city centre. It has its own post office, police department – literally, bus services and bus “station” and its very own shop which was the size of walking into a major supermarket – and you could buy everything and anything – branded oh and a supermarket for all of those over priced required groceries. So why was I here – well for the UCLA Women’s Soccer match against Iowa Thunder…

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What was the event?

What: UCLA Womens Soccer Match

Where: UCLA Campus, Los Angeles

When: 23rd August 2019

And so the story begins…

Getting to the campus I of course acted lost so I could ask for directions to as many people as I could. So walking along the campus I asked security, UCLA branded staff and so on – “where was the pitch for the match?”. Everyone knew were it was and very good customer service. I was not in anything that made me look as though I went to the University but I was allowed to walk through the campus and with my ticket straight got me straight into the stadium. It was a scanned ticket so after increasing my brightness on my phone – the game staff wearing there white polo shirts who I think were probably retired lecturers of the university – let me in. For all students with their university ID they gained free entry. To be fair I was probably the only one in the park who paid and was from outside the “UCLA Community” probably outside the country.

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Lets discuss UCLA. Its not a university. It’s a brand. Everyone is UCLA. It’s a bit like NIKE and Adidas. Everyone has a jumper, its an American thing. They need to be seen and heard to be UCLA. Every mother and father that walks past me thinking who is this outsider taking an aisle seat on the stainless steel bleachers. Its me. American university sports have a positive way of making fans family. The way they do it – sell attractive clothing and lanyards – I bought a lanyard so just I felt part of it. But the expenditure that people go to be part of this family – most certainly needs to be thought through…but that’s another book. I mean a hoodie is $70 and thats last seasons…

Now lets get to the event. UCLA Women’s Soccer is part of overall UCLA Bruins – which is the team name of the UCLA sports. This year UCLA celebrates 100 years and it was everywhere. Branding celebrating this was in your face – which is very typical of American Universities. At the start of the match the announcements included the 100 year celebrations and then the most important and nationwide regular activity – the National Anthem. Everyone stood with there baseball cap on there heart. Facing 45 degrees to the left I stood to respect. All the teams were lined up positioned in a straight line with one hand on the heart and one hand on their teammates left shoulder in front. After the anthem everyone sat down so let me introduce you to the crowd. I mean its certainly intriguing but the announcement was “please stand to honour our flag…” Thats another book…

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Most of everyone around me was family members of the team. However, most of the parents had just flown in for the match. A lot of the team were from outside the area. I heard one man saying to another “Yeah I just flew in I might see her tomorrow but probably not because my flight is at 10am…” I mean. There is a few different points to that. The first is for parents for there daughter to be at UCLA is a massive accomplishment. But also the pressure put on their children is quite huge at American Universities. Other parents around me obviously knew each other and everyone was hugging and talking away. There must have been most probably about 1000 people in the crowd. Grandmothers of some of the team members had “Grandmother” hoodies – I mean…really. It was like a professional Soccer match with all the engagement trimmings but in the middle of a university campus. I was impressed with everything – even the coldness that came over and crippled my Scottish blood.

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The match was quite exciting. Tackles flying in. I was getting into it. When UCLA scored I felt like I was a season ticket holder (which you can be – think about that university sport season tickets….crazy). Everyone seemed very upbeat – smiling but focused. When there was a wrong tackle or a wrong pass it was a ….”OOOOOO….” or “REFERREEE YOU KIDDING ME ON?” Maybe that was just me but I certainly heard a lot of that. The athletes get treated like there professional athletes, which I get but it still was a bit baffling when I remembered I am sitting in a university campus!

One thing to take away…

The packaging of the experience has to be down to the central product, which in this case is Bruins – the sporting brand by the University. Clever marketing with so much buy in.

#comeonthejourney

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