Sponsor Insights

CONCACAF | Instant Replay

In addition to being the first MLS club to win CONCACAF Champions League, the Sounders will also be the first to represent the league at the FIFA Club World Cup.

We highlight some of the activations and FS1 broadcast ads during the Sounders 2022 CONCACAF Champions League victory, which saw a record-breaking crowd of 68,741 fans.

CONCACAF Finals

Four Brands Enter MLS With New Partnerships After Season Openers

Three weeks into the 2022 MLS season, new brands have been seen entering the MLS sponsorship space for the first time, partnering with teams after the season opener on February 26th. Nashville FC named cryptocurrency brand, Valkyrie Invest, as a founding partner a week into the 2022 season. Nashville FC became the first MLS team to accept a full partnership fee in bitcoin. 

Part of the partnership includes club naming rights to Nashville FC’s new 850-seat premium club, which will be renamed to the Valkyrie Premier Club. Valkyrie Invest was the #23 most searched brand this past week on the SponsorUnited platform seeing a jump from #7,492 the previous week. Many other brands have entered the MLS for the first time during the 2022 season.

Nashville SC X GEODIS
With Nashville SC set to begin play at their new stadium during the 2022 season, the team has secured a venue naming rights partner, GEODIS, which will rename the field to GEODIS Park. GEODIS is an international brand headquartered in France with their eyes set on an expansion in the United States as they have recently opened a new warehouse in New York.

Charlotte FC X Ruoff Mortgage
Ruoff Mortgage was named the Official Mortgage Company of Charlotte FC as part of a multi-year partnership less than a week into the club’s inaugural season. This deal marks the brand’s first partnership with an MLS club.

NYFC X Flo
Flo was named the Official Electric Vehicle Charging Partner of the 2021 MLS Champion, the New York City Football Club. The partnership marks the brand’s first Major Pro Sports partnership in the United States although they currently have a deal in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks in Canada.

Chicago Fire X Wintrust Financial Corporation
Chicago based company, Wintrust, entered the MLS for the first time in a multi-year partnership with the Chicago Fire FC, becoming the Official Banking Partner of the team. The brand will leverage assets which include exclusive pitch entitlement for all home games played at Soldier Field, as well as key signage throughout the stadium including the player tunnel and in-stadium LED signage.

Electric Vehicles Head Towards Sponsorships

The 2021 MLS Cup Champions, the New York City Football Club, signed a partnership deal with FLO, an electric vehicle charging network and provider. While they have a deal with the NHL (Vancouver Canucks), this partnership marks the first U.S. Major Pro Sports deal for the brand. 

FLO will be the Official Electric Vehicle Charging Partner of NYCFC. Their deal with the Canucks includes virtual signage on the broadcast as well as dasher board signage. SponsorUnited highlighted the EV brands that entered the sponsorship world in 2021 in our Automotive Sponsorships 2020-2021 Annual Report. As mentioned in the report, there were seven brands at the time making an impact in the EV space leading the way for more brands to enter into new partnerships.

Rivian teamed up with Professional Fishing Athlete, Camille Egdorf for the release of their first teaser video while well known brand Tesla, jumped into the NIL space securing a deal with USC defensive lineman Nick Figuerora. Lucid Motors made a big splash in 2021 spending on broadcast media with commercials during Super Bowl LV as well as the Rose Bowl and on Saturday Night Live on NBC.

D.C. United Partners With XDC Network

The Cryptocurrency space and NFT’s continue to develop a strong presence in the sponsorship industry. Within the last 12 months, over 40 brands in these categories have signed a venue naming rights deal or a jersey partnership globally. 

Most recently, D.C. United secured the first ever Crypto deal in the MLS with a new primary jersey partnership with XDC Network while also following the blueprint set by Socios.com in the global football market.

XDC Network will be developing a “Fan Token” program which will give fans the opportunity to gain rewards through engagement opportunities, exclusive experiences, and special access to content from the team. The brand will also be providing the landscape for fans to buy, sell, trade or interact with NFTs on the XDC Network through a video platform where fans can also learn more about blockchain technology. This is a first-of-its-kind deal for XDC Network as they have officially entered the sponsorship space within the five major pro sports leagues in the US.

The partnership between these two organizations follows the playbook set by global football teams and Socios.com who have had “Fan Token” during previous seasons. Socios.com expanded into the United States during 2021 having deals within the NHL and NBA but has yet to sign a deal within the MLS.

D.C. United & XDC Network

Official League Partners | MLS Annual Report

See a glimpse of the MLS League Partners from our newly released MLS 2021 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report. SponsorUnited highlights the brand’s start year and focused initiatives of the partnerships.

MLS Official Sponsors

Most Searched | MLS Report

Coinbase, Crypto.com and FTX all landed in the top five most searched brands by MLS executives utilizing the SponsorUnited platform. Although vacant of a league sponsorship, it seems as if cryptocurrency is ready to take off within the league as XDC Network has signed the first deal for the category with a team this week. As the most searched sub-category on the SponsorUnited platform, expect a big footprint in the near future as players have also already started to accept crypto as their salary. 

Although players are accepting salaries in Cryptocurrency, it does not mean they actively have a partnership. Walker Zimmerman is the only MLS athlete with a deal as he has social media posts with Coinmerge promoting their platform. Outside of the MLS, the other four major pro sports in the US have over 25 active Cryptocurrency brands led by FTX and Crypto.com. 18% of their deals include Event Entitlements such as Voyager being the presenting sponsor of the Dallas Mavericks game on October 27th against the Houston Rockets. During this game, Voyager not only was the presenting sponsor but had 9 total assets during the game including signage, a promotion sponsor as well as a sponsored attendee take home item which gave fans a code to get $100 in crypto. 

It is not uncommon for Cryptocurrency brands to have a promotion tied to their deals. Within major pro sports, five brands total for over 8 promotions including with the MLB league, athletes within these leagues and teams such as the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers.

Jersey Sleeves | MLS Annual Report

Five new front-of-jersey sponsors were added to the mix this season, including YETI, MTX Group, FLEX, XBTO and Victory Project. 

Local brands are more likely to invest as a primary jersey sponsor for their MLS clubs. Of the 27 MLS teams, more than half of the main jersey kit sponsors are headquartered in their local market. 

In 2020, nearly 50 different brands signed on to jersey sleeves. This season, 75% of sleeve sponsorships were exclusive to a single brand resulting in higher visibility. Over 80% of MLS teams had at least one jersey sleeve partner during the 2021 season, only 5 teams had multiple jersey sleeve partners. 

While looking for a jersey sleeve partnership, brands should also be searching for ways to get assets such as social media posts, rotating billboard signage, digital billboards and 360 rotating ribbon board signage into their deals. Over 90% of the jersey sleeve deals include social media posts and rotating billboard signage. Heading into their inaugural season in 2022, Charlotte FC signed a jersey sleeve deal with Centene Corporation and a primary jersey partnership with Ally Financial.

MLS 2021 Report

DOWNLOAD REPORT: https://sponsorunited.com/mls-2021-report/

SponsorUnited Releases MLS 2021 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report

MLS surpasses $400M in team sponsorship revenues

Today, SponsorUnited, the leading data platform for sports and entertainment, released the first MLS Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report from the 2021 season. This report highlights trends in sponsorships and partnership data surrounding Major League Soccer and their 27 teams. Take a specialized look into over 2,200 active brands buying sponsorships / media within the MLS space in the report, available now at SponsorUnited.com.

MLS surpasses $400M in team sponsorship revenues in 2021.
Roughly half of revenues were driven by six industries: Finance, Healthcare, Automotive, Technology, Insurance, and Media.

Brands eye Major League Soccer as an opportunity to capture younger, new generation growth. MLS saw a 40% increase in brands since 2019. With the buzz around the 2022 World Cup (Qatar), companies may take the leap towards a long-term plan for the 2028 World Cup (US).

Local brands are more likely to invest as a primary jersey sponsor for their MLS clubs.
Of the 27 MLS teams, more than half of the main jersey kit sponsors are headquartered in their local market.

Gaming is shifting the sponsorship landscape with more new deals than any other category.
28 of the 30 net new deals were with Sports Betting brands, while only two were with lotteries and none with daily fantasy apps.

North American soccer television viewership resurges from unusual year.
TV deals in the MLS have seen a steady increase of 60% since 2019, while the 2021 MLS Cup also saw a 38% increase in viewership from 2019.

Although vacant of a league sponsorship, cryptocurrency is ready to take off.
As the most searched category on the SponsorUnited platform, expect a big footprint in the near future. Players have also already started to accept crypto as their salary.

For a deeper look, and to access many other insights, download the SponsorUnited MLS 2021 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report at SponsorUnited.com.

Methodology

This report was compiled using SponsorUnited’s proprietary platform data from January 2021, through January 2022.

*Social Data Compiled from Property or Person-Controlled Instagram, Facebook and Twitter Accounts and Social Activity.

Ronaldo vs. MLS Athletes | Social Media Following

This past week, Cristiano Ronaldo became the first person ever to pass 400 million followers on Instagram. Over the 18 years that Ronaldo has been playing professional soccer, he has been able to create a following around the world. Adding in Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, Ronaldo has well over 500 million followers across all social media platforms. 

Taking advantage and leveraging his massive following are 20 brands currently within 13 categories. Ronaldo has an apparel deal with Nike which has posted his highest engagement score on social media of over 12.5 million. Other brands Ronaldo has partnered with include Altice, Herbalife, Therabody and Crunch Fitness. Interesting to note that the brands partnered with Ronaldo have headquarters not only in Europe where he plays soccer but also in other countries around the world as he is a global sensation.

The MLS has had a strong rise recently as the league saw a 40% increase in brands buying sponsorship or media from 2019. Although on the rise, the social media presence of some of the top athletes show the true power of being a soccer superstar around the world. Blase Matuidi, Christian Ramirez, Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) and Jonathan dos Santos each have secured over five endorsement deals ranging from apparel brands such as Nike and Puma to Modelo, BodyArmor and Quantum Energy Squares. The four athletes combined have a total Instagram following of just over 14 million which in total is just 3% of the entire following of Cristiano Ronaldo. The top 25 MLS athletes account for only 6% of Ronaldo’s 400 million.

Consumer Products | MLS Report

The Consumer Products category as a whole saw the second-highest increase in volume of deals with the MLS last season. Procter & Gamble used MLS intellectual property to promote brands like Gillette, Old Spice and Crest through the season.

Stay tuned, the FREE SponsorUnited MLS 2021 Marketing & Partnerships Report is coming soon!