Unfortunately, WordPress software was down for most of the evening making it difficult to put up some new content. The plan was to right about the surprising lack of new jersey sponsors in MLS. When Commissioner Garber made his bold statement last November suggesting that most teams would have sponsors in 2011, fans did not expect to see teams like Chicago and Columbus lose the name on the front of their jerseys. Equally disappointing, neither of the MLS Cup finalists have secured a sponsor. Unfortunately, because of the time crunch, we cannot hit this in depth, but here is a piece we drafted a while back about the shocking value of MLS jersey deals.
On January 12, 2011, the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer announced a four year, $12 million dollar deal with Mexican food conglomerate Bimbo. While the notion of prominent uniform advertisements is foreign in most American sports, MLS has embraced such sponsorships as an important source of revenue. After the expiration of deals in Columbus and Chicago, six MLS franchises are searching for a primary jersey sponsor,while the rest of the teams have inked deals worth millions of dollars with world renown companies such as Microsoft, BMO and VW. Although still in its infancy, MLS’s recent foray into the world of jersey sponsorships provides an interesting comparison to the value placed on such ads in other prominent leagues.
In December, FC Barcelona signed a five year, $200 million dollar jersey sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation. The deal was especially notable because of the storied club’s prior refusal to carry a commercial sponsorship on their chest. The team had paid UNICEF for the past five years for the privilege of wearing the charity’s name on its kit. In England, EPL leaders Manchester United wear the name of Chicago based Aon Corp. on their jerseys. According to USA today, the deal to replace fallen AIG was valued at $131 million dollars over four years. According to the same report, the deal was worth more than 17% over the T-Home sponsorship of Bundesliga club Bayern Munich.
Yet for purposes of comparison, these world renown clubs are probably not the best marker for the nascent teams in MLS. Many of the mid-table and drop zone candidates in European leagues carry deals that compare favorably to their MLS cousins. Last season, the BBC reported that seven EPL clubs carry sponsorship deals valued at less than $1.6 million dollars. According to a recent analysis conducted by SPORT + MARKT, the 18 remaining teams in La Liga (after Barcelona and Real Madrid are removed), average less than $2.5 million per jersey deal. Similarly, with all 20 teams accounted for in France’s Ligue 1, the average jersey sponsorship is valued at less than $4 million dollars per team.
With a significant number number of MLS deals worth in excess of 2 million dollars annually (and some valued over $4 million per year), the data shows that once extreme outliers such as Barcelona and Manchester United are exluded, companies are willing to invest similar dollars for a slice of the uniform in MLS and Europe. While many fans will find these numbers surprising, these figures show the value of the American marketplace and the tremendous growth MLS has made among corporate marketers in the last 15 years.