Little Rock's Stone Ward Scores With U.S. Soccer Success

by Lee Hogan  on Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2014 10:51 am  

Millions of Americans watched Tuesday, overflowing with pride and angst, as their country defeated Ghana, 2-1, in the World Cup. But employees at Stone Ward of Little Rock, an advertising, marketing and public relations firm headquartered in the River Market District, were especially proud.

That's because Stone Ward, whose clients include Terminix, Sports Clips and Snap-on Tools, also represents the U.S. Soccer Federation, the governing body for amateur and professional soccer in the United States. For that reason, Tuesday was more hectic for Stone Ward employees than the average U.S. Soccer fan.

About half the day was devoted to creating graphics for social media for use during that night's game. The images included one to announce the team's starting 11, finalized about an hour before the game started, which received more than 4,900 retweets.

At about noon Tuesday, three members of Stone Ward's four-person office in Chicago headed to Grant Park, the site of a massive watch party, to make sure the graphics looked good on the banners and on the big screen.

Once the game started, the Stone Ward team headed to the U.S. Soccer Federation's Chicago headquarters to help with the social media effort. One employee downloaded photos from sideline photographers in Brazil, while others worked on creating graphics.

From Clint Dempsey's goal in the first minute, to John Brooks' header in the 86th minute to give the U.S. a 2-1 victory, the Stone Ward team worked side-by-side with U.S. Soccer's social media team.

"Anything that U.S. Soccer needs us to do, we want to make sure we're able to do that the instant they tell us," Kyle Floyd, creative director at Stone Ward, said, "so we really felt like we needed three team members in the room watching the game."

Floyd joked that one of the graphic designers said she looked forward to watching the game, which she recorded at home, after working throughout the live broadcast Tuesday.

The intense, hectic work schedule will continue for Stone Ward as long as the U.S. remains in the World Cup. Right now, the men's team has two games remaining before its future is decided.

"It's an interesting blessing and a curse because we know that the more the U.S. advances, the more our crazy schedule is going to keep on going," Floyd said. "That's what we desperately want, but we have to make sure our work schedule is planned out to allow for an influx of more work if they make it out of the group stage or to be able to redirect."

For now, Floyd said the agency is in a stage of rallying support before the team's next match Sunday against Portugal.

The folks at Stone Ward will also have a little work to do for the women's team this week as the national team faces France on Thursday in Tampa, Florida in the last of two friendlies in five days. The matches lead up to the qualifying stage of the CONCACAF Women's World Cup in October. Still, the main item Stone Ward is working on right now for the women's team, Floyd says, is vacation packages to the Women's World Cup next year in Canada.

'We Wanted It The Worst'

Stone Ward has worked with the U.S. Soccer Federation since 2006. The agency first found out the account was available through a mutual relationship between U.S. Soccer and Stone Ward's Chicago office, which opened in September 2005.

From there, Stone Ward competed against multiple agencies to become one of the federation's partner agencies. 

"I'm convinced we got the business because we wanted it the worst," Floyd said. "We've got some diehard fans here. That had to be communicated, that's the only answer I can give for it."

Stone Ward said it was unable to discuss terms of its contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation. But according to the Floyd, the relationship, which started with marketing support for domestic ticket sales, "has absolutely exploded."

Now, Floyd describes Stone Ward's position as "strategic and design support" for the federation.

The client relationship aspect of the account is managed out of the Chicago office, which is also where the U.S. Soccer headquarters is located. But design work is completed by Stone Ward employees at both the Little Rock and Chicago offices.

Floyd says there is no two days alike working on the account, but it's one he wants Stone Ward to continue to represent far into the future.

One Nation, One Team

From the beginning, Floyd said it was important to create a slogan for the World Cup that spoke with a cohesive voice.

"Our role for U.S. Soccer is to make sure their branding always stays patriotic and positive," he said. 

Although work on the slogan began about a year and a half ago, "One Nation, One Team," was a simple one to settle on, according to Floyd.

"In a way, it's almost an obvious phrase because you're bringing together all your players from multiple places as one nation," he said. "But all of the momentum and all the social media seems to be geared toward the fans and the players becoming closer than ever."

Since the slogan was decided upon, Floyd said fans and players have been "in each other's business" and that's how they want it.

"We wanted something that was a very unifying phrase," he said.

That unifying phrase has been seen in tweets from several celebrities this week, including Conan O'Brien, Drew Brees, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Phelps and Vice President Joe Biden.

All of the well wishes have also included the celebrities appearing in custom U.S. Soccer jerseys. Stone Ward says the jerseys were sent to hundreds of well-known personalities, who were then asked to show their support this week in the lead up to the first game for the U.S. men's team.

"We just wanted to make it really easy for people to show support," Floyd said.

The four-word slogan also serves the added benefit of unifying the men's and women's teams.

"Everything U.S. Soccer has been doing has been geared toward unifying the branding and I feel like this phrase, in addition to it being a rally cry for the World Cup, helped us keep that unifying momentum that they were shooting for," Floyd said.

Building for the Future

This year more than others with the federation, Floyd says it's easier to see the support from fans, in terms of interaction and interest.

"What the federation has done is to take advantage of the wave of positive enthusiasm and momentum that the sport of soccer has, and use it to their advantage," he said.

As far as the future endeavors for Stone Ward and U.S. Soccer, Floyd says, "the sky is the limit."



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