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May, 2020

NJYS Partner Highlighted in MLS Flashback Feature

Major League Soccer recently released a segment of its 12-part LEGACY initiative that takes a look back at the men's 2002 FIFA World Cup heroes who helped MLS survive and thrive. Featured in this story is Rich Levy, Founder of ÉPICO Studios, the official creative services provider for NJ Youth Soccer. It describes how Levy, then the MLS Creative Director, had been tasked with an expansive marketing campaign to promote players like Kevin McBride and Clint Mathis and capitalize on what they hoped would be unprecedented brand exposure for the league.

Levy was a film buff who long admired the promotional movie posters from 1970s sci-fi releases like "Bladerunner," "Rollerball" and the early "Star Wars" films, and he saw the World Cup campaign as a perfect opportunity to pay homage to the artwork he adored. When he met with Mark Noonan in March 2002 to begin work on the campaign, he gravitated almost immediately to a similarly sci-fi aesthetic, with dramatic, heroic images of the key MLS stars front and center.

"It was a great opportunity," said Levy, who went on to design a variety of MLS team logos as well as the Philip F. Anschutz MLS Cup trophy. "We wanted to plant the seeds that the players from the U.S. team were coming from MLS, and they would be on the biggest stage in the world.

Though it was unclear in March which players would ultimately make the roster - let alone play in June - Levy settled on the idea of five players in the composition, with McBride featured most prominently, flanked by four others. By that point Mathis, Landon Donvan and DaMarcus Beasley seemed like safe bets for the campaign, but the fifth player remained something of a gamble.

Levy entertained the idea of Los Angeles Galaxy veteran and 1990s-era USMNT hero Cobi Jones, as well as rugged Chicago Fire midfielder Chris Armas. Levy also had a folder of images on file for Pablo Mastroeni, who had landed in Colorado after the Miami Fusion dissolved.

MLS lacked a variety of analytics back then to accurately judge how various players resonated with fans. Levy couldn't pick a player based on page views or video views on the league's website, or social media followers. And although the league debuted on EA Sports' popular FIFA video game series in 2000, there wasn't enough reliable data to influence Levy's decision. In the end, Levy went with his instincts - and which players were most popular among fans in the MLS Yahoo Fantasy League.

"Josh Wolff was lighting it up back then on fantasy in terms of fan usage rates, and that was our rationale," Levy said. "No one could deny what he was doing, so we went with our gut."

Noonan and Levy eventually coined the campaign "MLS Strike Force," added a tagline reading "Ready to Take On the World For Club and Country," and it was off and running. What followed was a marketing blitz that highlighted the group of MLS players on posters, hats, t-shirts and television advertising spots, the last of which interspersed game highlights with slow motion glances at the camera and a not-so-subtle script.

"You are a new breed. You welcome the pressure," says the anonymous female narrator, channeling a futuristic, robotic monotone. "You are Major League Soccer's Strike Force."

Note: This feature is an adaptation of an article that origianlly ran on the official website of Major League Soccer.

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Phone: 609-490-0725
Email: [email protected]

New Jersey Youth Soccer

569 Abbington Dr, Suite 5
East Windsor, New Jersey 08520

Phone: 609-490-0725
Email: [email protected]
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