LAFC, Target Ink First Sleeve Sponsorship in Major League Soccer
(Bloomberg) -- Los Angeles Football Club is the first franchise in Major League Soccer to add a second jersey advertisement, agreeing to a deal with Target Corp. that will launch next season.
Target’s bullseye logo will appear on the left sleeve of LAFC’s uniforms, both the ones worn by players and the ones sold to fans. It’s the first such deal under a four-year pilot program that MLS announced last October to test sleeve-patch sales. The league’s jerseys already feature a primary ad on the chest.
Though terms of the deal weren’t announced, MLS projected that its teams would see an average of $1 million a year from the sleeve patch. It’s fair to assume that LAFC, which has the league’s best record and plays in the nation’s No. 2 media market, would earn well above that average.
To help sell potential partners on a brand-new ad space, LAFC studied the exposure its jersey had received in 2019 from live broadcasts, highlight videos, social-media posts and news coverage. For example, over the first six months of this season, the MLS patch on the other sleeve received 550 million impressions.
“Every time Carlos Vela does something dramatic and the goal footage goes global, it will have a Target mark right on the sleeve,” LAFC President Tom Penn said. “It’s easy to quantify the number of impressions and the extent of the exposure that the partner gets.”
The 2.5-by-2.5-inch patch will appear on the team’s jersey along with the club’s central uniform sponsor, YouTubeTV, which is also its local broadcast partner.
Selling sleeve patches aligns MLS with prominent soccer leagues across the world, such as the English Premier League, where teams have both a main jersey sponsor and a second logo on the sleeve. There are some restrictions in specific categories, and to protect current league partners. Nike Inc., for example, can’t buy space on the Adidas AG-made jerseys.
Being the first to announce a sleeve partner was a goal for the team, according to Penn. He compared it to the team’s 2018 YouTubeTV deal, when it became the first major U.S. franchise to award its local TV rights to a streaming provider.
“We love being first,” said Penn, who is also an LAFC owner.
In addition to the sleeve patch, Target will place its logo on digital signs around the team’s stadium. The company also has the right to brand a field-level suite where the club entertains VIP guests and celebrities.
LAFC became the second MLS club in Los Angeles, joining the LA Galaxy, after owners paid $110 million in 2014 to establish the team. It started play in 2018 and immediately became one of MLS’s most valuable franchises, according to Forbes.
LAFC is controlled by a trio of owners -- Apollo Global Management senior partner Larry Berg, Ares Management co-founder Bennett Rosenthal and Riot Games Inc. co-founder Brandon Beck. Other investors include Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, who is also co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., actor Will Ferrell, and soccer star Mia Hamm.
In general, U.S. leagues are warming to the idea of selling ad space on jerseys. The NBA allows teams to sell patches on the shoulder of their uniforms, and the WNBA has jersey partners front and center. Some NFL teams have patches on their practice jerseys, MLB teams wear patches during overseas games, and the NHL has considered allowing ads on jerseys.
Target is already heavily invested in MLS. The Minneapolis-based company is the main jersey partner for the league’s Minnesota franchise. It is also a league partner.
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