Power of Sponsorship: MLS Fans Support League Sponsors

The Sports Business Journal has reported on the findings of the 2010 “Turnkey Intelligence sponsor awareness survey” which gauged loyalty and awareness of sports fans to the products and companies that pour money into their sports.  MLS sponsors such as Visa, AT&T and Pepsi enjoy significant recognition among fans of Major League Soccer who showed high cognizance that these companies are official league sponsors.  According to the survey, the fans’ recognition of these brands continues to increase with almost 40% of MLS fans recognizing Visa’s official status (over 20% more than two years ago) and more than a quarter of fans recognizing the status of AT&T and Pepsi.

Significantly for prospective MLS sponsors, “in similar surveys fielded in 2010 that tracked brand awareness among fans, the official credit card sponsors of the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA Tour and NASCAR each received lower recognition levels than Visa did in the MLS survey”  As indicated by that statement from the SBJ report, the data suggests that MLS fans are more cognizant of their official sponsors than fans of other sports.  Even more significantly, according to one of the questions on the survey, 80% of avid MLS fans are more likely to recommend a product or service if it has a relationship with the league.

Because of MLS’ relative newness to the sports scene, MLS fans have more “ownership” in the league’s success.  Unlike fans of the NFL, MLB and other mainstream sports, fans of Major League Soccer have real concern about their league and its place on the sports landscape.  Fans work hard to bring friends to games, introduce family to the sport and cheer for MLS teams in international competitions.  This personalized relationship to the sport lends itself to these same fans taking an interest in the corporate entities that keep the league solvent.  Moreover, because the relationships are promoted through means other than commercials (jerseys, signage, etc…), the names of these companies are always prominently displayed.  From a league perspective, this survey should give SUM and MLS ammunition to attract more sponsors impressed with these numbers.