Delta Airlines “Join the XI” Contest Experience
Delta Airlines and their partner Seattle Sounders (MLS team) teamed up to sponsor the Join the XI contest last May. Fans were invited to submit a photo and eleven words to describe how they embody one of eleven positions on the “fan team“.
Well, I entered and won. I was “The First Timer” as I am pretty new to following the Sounders (and soccer in general). I sent in my entry back in early May and in mid-July I received a call from MKG marketing. It was a number I didn’t recognize so the first two calls I didn’t answer. When I saw the number a third time, I answered, thinking I would tell them to stop calling. Turns out they were letting me know I had won and would be traveling to LA with the Sounder July 28-30, 2017.
First, they had a “signing” event for us. We were invited down to The Ninety for a media event. Staff from the Sounders and Delta were on hand for photos. John Caldwell, Seattle Vice President of Delta shared a few words. We each received a personalized jersey and some additional swag.
They day of the trip we met at SeaTac Airport to check in with the team. The contest winners and players were escorted through security. While we got to skip the TSA line, we did NOT get Pre√. It was hard for me to remember the last time I had to take off my shoes and take out my laptop for a flight in the US.
We were on a regular Delta flight to LAX. All MLS teams are allowed to charter only four flights a year. The rest of the time they fly in Economy (not even Comfort +). Apparently their contract says they must get either a window or aisle seat, but that’s it! Clint Dempsey, who makes nearly $4 million a year, was in one of the last rows of the plane.
They had the contest winners board first so we could get a group photo. They brought a photographer/videographer on the trip to document it.
A bus met us at LAX and took us to the Belamar Hotel where we stayed for the weekend. The rooms were already paid for and keys were laid out, we just had to provide a credit card for incidentals. Below is a photo of the team arriving.
Dinner that night was at The Tin Table. It was just across the street yet a bus was provided to transport us. The players didn’t join us (they had their own meal at the hotel), but the coach, Brian Schmetzer, was able to stop by and spend time with each table.
Three meals (including drinks) were included with the trip. Dinner on Friday, Brunch on Saturday and Dinner on Saturday.
Brunch on Saturday was at another restaurant nearby. Seattle Sounders’ GM Garth Laerwey spoke at the breakfast and took questions about the team and future plans. Even as a non-soccer player, I found his approach to business extremely fascinating.
That afternoon we headed over to the StubHub Center for a tour before the game.
Dinner was at the Amex Stadium Club. The Stadium Club is open to Platinum seat, suite, and cabana holders. We had a buffet and drinks were covered.
Prior to the start of the match we received field passes to watch the warm up.
Our seats were behind the Sounders’ bench and next to the Sounders’ fan section.
After the game (a disappointing 0-0 tie), we went back down on the field for photos.
That night in the hotel bar, a few players and the coach stopped by and debriefed the game a bit with us. It wasn’t part of the contest, it was just part of staying at the same hotel. There were lots of opportunities to chat with the team throughout the trip just due to proximity. Some of the hardcore Sounders fans were eating it up.
The next day we were bussed back to LAX for our return flight and the end to a great weekend and experience.