Tim Hinchey- President, Colorado Rapids Share PDF Print E-mail
Profile of the week
Tim Hinchey is the President of the Colorado Rapids.
Before coming to Colorado, Hinchey served as the Vice President of Commercial for English Football League Championship side Derby County for three years, where he oversaw a radical change in the club’s commercial approach, introducing a number of innovative ideas and policies unique to English football that have brought great success and results off the field.
Before joining DCFC, Hinchey had spells with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats as their Executive Vice President of Business Operations and with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets as senior vice president of corporate development and Chief Marketing Officer.
Prior to joining the Hornets, he worked for Runyon, Saltzman & Einhorn as alliance marketing director, creating a new division where he developed new business relationships and served the firm’s sports and entertainment clients. Hinchey also served as vice president of brand development for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in Northern California.
His start in professional sports came began with the Los Angeles Kings in 1991 and continued as vice president of marketing and corporate sales for the Utah Grizzlies and the E Center, senior vice president of business development for the Long Beach Ice Dogs and director of strategic alliances for Maloof Sports & Entertainment.
A native of northern California, Hinchey and his wife Mia are the proud parents of six children.
What would you consider to be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of running Colorado Rapids?
The challenging aspect is to continue to grow the game in a market that has seven professional sports teams. To get that share of voice for the Rapids and to continue to create capacity crowds has to be our focus.
The most rewarding part thus far has to be helping change the culture and getting everyone on board. We’re working on an internal mantra about transparency; we call it ‘The One Club’. We are one club from the coaching staff, to the academy staff, to the front office, to the ticket sales people. All those are going to pull in the same direction. To see that on its initial flight is rewarding.
Given the contrasting levels of popularity of basketball and soccer in the US, what are the major differences between working for an NBA franchise and a MLS franchise?
Although not quite yet on the same level of popularity as an NBA franchise, in many cases, the Colorado Rapids is part of an emerging sport that’s growing rapidly. It’s exciting to be a part of something where the athletes are accessible, articulate and excited about growing the sport, so from a partnership perspective, you feel like you can accomplish more. The NBA is a phenomenal product and one of the best run leagues in the world. I certainly enjoyed working in it. From an MLS perspective, we’re still working very hard to be at the same professional level that the NBA has achieved over their great history.
We’re in a unique environment. Mr. Kroenke is one of the single largest individuals that holds an NBA franchise, an NFL franchise, an MLS franchise and he’s the majority shareholder with Arsenal.
Stan Kroenke sometimes gets bad press for not being involved enough in the sports franchises he owns. Is that merited and what’s it like to work for him?
He’s a terrific sports fan, a very smart individual and incredibly loyal. If you look at his organisations and leadership groups- he’s involved in it, he knows everything that’s happening and he makes fantastic suggestions. It’s a shame that sometimes he gets negative press for not being as proactive in certain areas. As an executive of one of his teams, I really appreciate that he’s hired people to run teams and allows them to do that.
How much more of a challenge has it been to operate in the US in a sport that isn’t ‘American’?
From my experience at Derby, one of the things that make it not as challenging is that from a commercial perspective, professional sport is truly a recognised industry category in the United States. Soft drinks companies, quick service restaurants or financial institutions are all accustomed to, and welcome, inquiries to partner sports in terms of sponsorship and hospitality. It wasn’t necessarily like that in the UK. Whether you look at an MLS franchise or an NBA franchise, those businesses understand what you’re trying to do and how they can get leverage for success in the community of professional sports organisation to benefit their businesses.
However, I think we have definitely got to work harder to get people to understand where soccer is and how quickly this league has grown in sixteen years.  Last year the average attendance in MLS was higher than that of the NBA and NHL.
Do you feel you have to be a bit more imaginative when attracting supporters to a soccer match during the unfavourable economic climate?
Certainly. Our philosophy when it comes to commercial partnerships has always been predicated on truly understanding the business objectives of our potential clients. We’re not just going to sell them a pre-packaged opportunity and we’re not going to give them a menu of items to purchase.
We have ‘discovery means’, we investigate what they’re trying to accomplish as a business and then create a programme that allows them to be successful so they can truly see the return on investment. By having that patience and taking those extra steps to really get to know our clients, we always do a much better job at presenting something that would really help their business, therefore create longer sustaining relationships. I think it’s even more important to do that nowadays based on the economic climate.
How imperative is social media as a communication tools in spreading the MLS brand?
It’s super important for our league. The 18 to 35 year old males are the Americans most likely to support clubs worldwide, but are now embracing soccer in the United States. It’s okay for them to support Derby County like I do, but when they live in Denver, it’s totally cool to come and support the Rapids. We need to communicate with those people and the way that they communicate more than any other place is social media. They want a community where they can talk about their support – what they like and dislike. You have to accept the positive message along with criticism.
I’ve enjoyed the real authentic world and being able to communicate with our fan base. I’m enjoying the fact that they appreciate that both myself and the club are accessible and that we’re becoming more transparent. I learnt that at Derby. When you’re talking about a club that’s about to be 125 years old and has 20,000 season ticket holders and you’re the ‘yank’, they want to know what the heck you’re doing. We found honesty is the best policy. If we’re communicating and they know where the club’s coming from, it builds the image we want to have.
How significant is it for MLS to bringing in high profile imports like David Beckham and Thierry Henry?
It’s been important. The ‘Beckham experiment’ has been incredibly successful for our league. A lot may be based on the pop culture rather than the sport, but it’s brought attention to our league. When the L.A Galaxy travels, it’s always a capacity crowd. Galaxy has now become an iconic brand for our country and their success speaks for that.
Rather than necessarily importing stars that are finishing their international careers, it is more important now to look at those young players that can either help make our league better or create assets we can move on to bigger leagues. We’d rather be a league developing international stars than retiring international stars.
We’ve announced the acquisition of Martín Rivero, who’s 22 years of age, from Argentina, played in their second flight, but has had 112 games and is a number 10 -type player. That’s who we should be acquiring. MLS is looking at South America and Central America as a place to find players. We’re also taking on a nineteen year old from Arsenal- that relationship is always good.
Are you looking to build relationships further with clubs in Europe, especially Arsenal?
I have a unique situation having been a director at Derby for three years. I’m a huge supporter of the club and I speak to those guys every week.
Mr Kroenke has Arsenal, it would certainly be great, when’s it’s appropriate to have a deeper relationship. It’s not Arsenal’s responsibility to worry about the Rapids, but we do hope to build on extending ties. It might start with youth development- that’s a place they can help us as we focus on academies here.
Are US clubs likely to play more overseas games in future to spread the appeal of the MLS?
I would like to think so. This off-season, several MLS players went overseas to train with clubs. Jeff Larentowicz was invited to train with Bolton and had a great experience. Landon [Donovan] is doing a fantastic job with Everton. Tim Ream has just got signed by Bolton. I think people realise our country does grow athletes. Can we convince those athletes to focus on soccer at a younger age? I think part of it may be playing some friendlies, but a part of it is having some of our players go over for these drop-in chances or training opportunities, where clubs get to say: “Wow! Look at this American! He’s contributing at a very high level!” That will help us more than anything.
Do you believe it’s important to have a soccer-specific stadium?
When you look at the development of the soccer stadiums, all of that has been successful. Our sporting facility is quite unique – 18,000 seats, beautiful sidelines, a fantastic pitch, all surrounded by 24 fields – which allows us to obviously translate that into more support for the Rapids attendance. I think a soccer-specific stadium provides a better atmosphere and more consistency to our sport.
Having said that, Seattle’s terrific stadium shows the potential of MLS in our country because that organisation and ownership have always treated the Seattle Sounders as equals to the Seattle Seahawks. Not every organisation, including the Rapids, has had that success. Just over a year ago, our organisation for the first time has put the Rapids as a priority next to the Nuggets, the Avalanches and other properties. When you have ownership that says: “Listen! They’re all important!”, that goes a along way.
Tom Glick and his staff are working hard to make Derby a self-sustaining club, but a lot of the teams in England don’t usually make a profit. Why?
It’s funny because we talked about it when I was there, and we were working so hard on that. After spending three years there, I think that system is broken. The reality is, when you try and govern multiple federations and multiple leagues, I’m not sure you’re ever going to get to a point where you can say: “Guys, here’s what we’re going to do, here’s the wage cap”. The MLS is a single entity league; everyone is working in the same direction.
I hope Financial Fair Play is a step in the right direction, but it’s going to be very difficult to tell a billionaire from the Middle East or Russia that he’s got to play the same way as everyone else. It’s a shame Rangers and Portsmouth, who have wonderful heritage, put themselves in a position where they’re in administration. I don’t know if there’s a single solution, but there are more people starting to realise how money is distributed and understand that by chasing the dream of promotion, you can put the club in tremendous peril.
Is making a profit or breaking even one of your main objectives at Colorado Rapids?
Stan is not looking to make a profit, but I think he’d like to not lose any more money. We’re one of the last three teams in the MLS to not have a shirt sponsorship, so that’s my first priority. I was successful in landing the shirt deal that Derby currently has, so I certainly know what it takes. If we do that and continue to grow our tickets sales like we did last year, we will break even this year for the first time in the history of the club. I think Stan will then allow us to consider a designated player and other opportunities that we can enhance the fans with. It’s about how can we grow the game and put us into a position where we’re not losing money.
Tom also mentioned that he thought it’d be easier to gain promotion than it has proven, but expects the Rams to be up soon. Did you think Derby would be in the Premier League by now? Do you share his optimism about the future?
We all thought with the parachute and the initial talent Paul Jewell purchased, we’d get ourselves right back up. I have a fantastic appreciation for the Championship and I think it maybe is one of the toughest leagues in the world to get out of.
I definitely share the optimism. The academy today compared to where it was when we took over is chalk and cheese. If clubs can really focus on home grown development, you don’t have to dip into the loan market or buy a whole bunch of things. When you go through injuries, home-grown talent plays an invaluable part on the pitch, because they’ve earned it and have learnt the same system and the same style that you’re teaching all the way through.
Derby this year are seven or eight points better than a year ago. I think Tom and Nigel have put together a plan that will get them back to where they need to go. Derby has an unbelievable history and supporter base. They deserve to be up.
You must be looking forward to upcoming MLS season. What are you hoping to achieve?
Our current players were all there when we won in 2010. We have a great veteran group of players that have been very successful at a high level in this league and for their country. We’re looking to be a significant player in each of the competitions. We want to go after the Supporter’s Shield. We’re certainly going after the MLS Cup and the play-offs. We want to take the US Open Cup more seriously and we want to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League. I want for us to be more consistent and, more importantly, with the kind of players we’re bringing in, the style of play is going to be better. What I think will help us build the game more than anything is to play the beautiful game with an attacking mentality, short passing and possession.

Tim Hinchley Cropped

Tim Hinchey is the President of the Colorado Rapids.

Before coming to Colorado, Hinchey served as the Vice President of Commercial for English Football League Championship side Derby County for three years, where he oversaw a radical change in the club’s commercial approach, introducing a number of innovative ideas and policies that have brought great success and results off the field. 

Before joining DCFC, Hinchey had spells with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats as their Executive Vice President of Business Operations and with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets as Senior Vice President of corporate development and Chief Marketing Officer. 

Prior to joining the Hornets, he worked for Runyon, Saltzman & Einhorn as alliance Marketing Director, creating a new division where he developed new business relationships and served the firm’s sports and entertainment clients. Hinchey also served as vice president of brand development for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in Northern California. 

His start in professional sports came began with the Los Angeles Kings in 1991 and continued as Vice President of marketing and corporate sales for the Utah Grizzlies and the E Center, senior vice president of business development for the Long Beach Ice Dogs and director of strategic alliances for Maloof Sports & Entertainment. 

A native of northern California, Hinchey and his wife Mia are the proud parents of six children. 

By Edward Rangsi


What would you consider to be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of running the Colorado Rapids?

The challenging aspect is to continue to grow the game in a market that has seven professional sports teams. To get that share of voice for the Rapids and to continue to create capacity crowds has to be our focus. The most rewarding part thus far has to be helping change the culture and getting everyone on board. We’re working on an internal mantra about transparency; we call it ‘The One Club’. We are one club from the coaching staff, to the academy staff, to the front office, to the ticket sales people. All those are going to pull in the same direction. To see that on its initial flight is rewarding.


Given the contrasting levels of popularity of basketball and soccer in the United States, what are the major differences between working for an NBA franchise and a MLS franchise?

Although not quite yet on the same level of popularity as an NBA franchise, in many cases, the Colorado Rapids is part of an emerging sport that’s growing rapidly. It’s exciting to be a part of something where the athletes are accessible, articulate and excited about growing the sport, so from a partnership perspective, you feel like you can accomplish more. The NBA is a phenomenal product and one of the best run leagues in the world. I certainly enjoyed working in it. From an MLS perspective, we’re still working very hard to be at the same professional level that the NBA has achieved over their great history. 

We’re in a unique environment. Mr. Kroenke is one of the single largest individuals that holds an NBA franchise, an NFL franchise, an MLS franchise and he’s the majority shareholder with Arsenal. 


Stan Kroenke occasionally gets bad press for not being involved enough in the sports franchises he owns. Is that justified? 

He’s a terrific sports fan, a very smart individual and incredibly loyal. If you look at his organisations and leadership groups- he’s involved in it, he knows everything that’s happening and he makes fantastic suggestions. It’s a shame that sometimes he gets negative press for not being as proactive in certain areas. As an executive of one of his teams, I really appreciate that he’s hired people to run teams and allows them to do that. 


How much more of a challenge has it been to operate in the United States in a sport that isn’t ‘American’?

From my experience at Derby, one of the things that make it not as challenging is that from a commercial perspective, professional sport is truly a recognised industry category in the United States. Soft drinks companies, quick service restaurants or financial institutions are all accustomed to, and welcome, inquiries to partner sports in terms of sponsorship and hospitality. It wasn’t necessarily like that in the UK. Whether you look at an MLS franchise or an NBA franchise, those businesses understand what you’re trying to do and how they can get leverage for success in the community of professional sports organisation to benefit their businesses. 

However, I think we have definitely got to work harder to get people to understand where soccer is and how quickly this league has grown in sixteen years. Last year the average attendance in MLS was higher than that of the NBA and NHL. 

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