To say that Orlando City’s brand has grown outside of just Orlando could be quite the understatement. One of the main goals for the front office of the club was to market itself to tourists, especially those from Brazil. After all, the Lions brought in arguably one of the most recognized names in Brazilian soccer, Kaká, to help with their marketing to tourists from South America.
With all of this talk about the Brazilian marketing, the tourists from England have been more of an afterthought in recent times. I’m going to share a story from this past summer that will show that even though there are a lot of Orlando City fans from Brazil, there are also many who follow the Lions from across the pond.
Being half-English on my mothers side, I try to visit family in London at least once every two years. This past year, my grandfather passed away, so I went over there to help clean out his house and what not. While I was there, I decided to take a day and travel around the city to my grandfather’s favorite football clubs, Tottenham and Arsenal.
Having brought my old Orlando City shirt along with me, I decided to throw it on and take some pictures in front of the stadiums. Once I was in the heart of London, I walked down to the Baker Street Underground station. On my way through the station, a man passed me and saw my shirt. He stopped, came up to me and asked if I was from Orlando. He then told me about how he and his family went to a game back in 2012 and they really enjoyed the experience. After going on our ways, I brushed it off as a random encounter and nothing more. After all, there are so many people in London; I may have just met one random person who liked Orlando City.
After taking a few tubes over to Arsenal, I took a picture of myself with the Orlando City MLS scarf in front of the Emirates Stadium. After the picture was taken and I was about to go on my way, a man who looked around my age came up to me and commented on my City shirt.
After exchanging pleasantries, he told me about how he and some of his mates were at the game against Newcastle back in 2011, which Orlando won 1-0. He told me he had heard about Kaká signing with Orlando and was going to go back in a year or two to check out the Lions again. At this point I began to wonder just how many English people had heard of Orlando City and were aware of what was happening with the team.
Going over to Tottenham was nothing too special. There was no one really around at the time and there was a lot of construction going on, so I took a picture and left. Since I was in England, and may not have another opportunity to do so, I decided to take a two-hour train ride up to Stoke-Upon-Trent and visit Stoke City, Orlando City’s “English sister.”
After taking a cab over to the Brittania Stadium, I went into the team store to buy a Stoke polo shirt. I mean, since I was there, why not? I walked into the store and was immediately greeted by a man who worked there that noticed my Orlando City shirt. He came up to me and, after introducing himself, he told me about how he had been at many of the games over the years, how his parents had a summer home there, and that he would go to games whenever he was in town. He also told me that he had a jersey from 2013 and that he couldn’t wait until the new Adidas jerseys came out.
As he continued talking, another patron in the store overheard us and asked if that was the club that Kaká was playing for. I think I spent a good half an hour in the store talking about Orlando City before I bought my polo shirt and left. I honestly couldn’t believe how many people in the U.K. had not only heard of Orlando City, but were up to date on the club’s news.
Thinking about it more though, the connection to England with Adrian Heath and Phil Rawlins has most likely helped the club spread across to the U.K., albeit in small doses. Come March of 2015, I expect a good number of English tourists to be at the inaugural game at the Citrus Bowl, as well as other games to follow.