On April 16 th , Adrian Hanauer, owner and former General Manager of the Seattle Sounders, spoke on campus as part of the Albers Executive Speaker Series. His theme was, "The Story behind the Seattle Sounders FC." Hanauer has nearly 30 years of business experience in a variety of industries. For example, he has made early stage investments in technology companies with interests in advertising, infrastructure, and wireless communications.
He also has plenty of experience with more traditional businesses. The Hanauer family owns Pacific Coast Feather Co., the nation's largest manufacturer of pillows, comforters, and bedding products. He also owns one of the largest chains of picture framing companies in the United States, and at one point owned a chain of pizza restaurants.
All that said, Hanauer is best known as the now former GM of the Seattle Sounders, which he led to extraordinary success during the team's first six seasons. Whether it was making the playoffs six years in a row or winning four Lamar Hunt Open Cups or taking last season's Supporters Shield, the accomplishments of the Sounders as a new MLS franchise are unprecedented.
Success came on and off the field, as the Sounders set the league attendance record each season since 2009, averaging nearly 44,000 in 2014, 20,000 more than the next-closest team.
After showing a short video, Hanauer dived into some of the success factors for the Sounders. According to him, there were twenty different things that needed to happen and the Sounders managed to succeed with all twenty. Some of it was due to skill and hard work, but according to Hanauer some of it was due to good luck and good timing. In his view, any successful enterprise can look back and see where being lucky contributed to the organization's success.
What was some of the luck? Starting off when the Mariners, Seahawks, and UW football were not very good, as well as being in a city where the demographics were changing to young professional and multicultural. As Hanauer noted, most people with an accent are soccer fans!
What did they do that was smart? Instead of chasing the youth soccer crowd, as other MLS teams had done, they focused on the young professional crowd. The latter can make weekend games, the former are running to their kids' games on the weekends. They also created scarcity with seating, holding to about 28,000 in the first year, creating some urgency around getting season tickets rather than people thinking good seats would always be available in a 66,000 seat facility.
Longer term, Hanauer sees potential to grow average attendance to 50-55,000 per game, and he is confident that the World Cup will be in the US in 2026 and Seattle will be one of the host cities. Now that fired up the audience!!