Major League Soccer’s 21st season returns with all 20 teams in action on Sunday to highlight the opening day. The US’s top domestic league continues to build on successes and fans will come out looking for an entertaining squad capable of winning MLS Cup.
But some fans may not immediately recognize their team on the field; not due to the new players but due to the new look of the jersey, in particularly the front-of-jersey sponsor.
All 20 teams feature a front-of-jersey sponsor with the San Jose Earthquakes signing with Sutter Health in the offseason. They were not the only club making changes with the Chicago Fire finding a new sponsor. The Portland Timbers will have the same sponsor but a new look after Alaska Airlines updated their corporate logo in the off-season. Other clubs extended deals with current partners while others are in the middle of long-term contracts.
Related Article: 2015 MLS Jersey Sponsors
The 20 MLS teams feature a variety of sponsors from financial services companies to healthcare groups to transportation companies.
Entertainment: Xbox – Seattle Sounders
Financial Services: Transamerica – Colorado Rapids, BMO Financial – Montreal Impact, BMO Financial – Toronto FC, IvyFunds – Sporting Kansas City
Food/Drink: Red Bull – New York Red Bulls, Bimbo Bakery – Philadelphia Union, LifeVantage – Real Salt Lake
Healthcare/Beauty: Barbasol – Columbus Crew, Advocare – FC Dallas, Herbalife – LA Galaxy, UnitedHealthCare – New England Revolution, Orland Health – Orlando City SC, Sutter Health – San Jose Earthquakes
Home Improvement: Valspar – Chicago Fire
Natural Resources: BHP Billiton – Houston Dynamo
Security/Technology: Leidos – D.C. United
Telecommunications: Bell Canada – Vancouver Whitecaps
Transportation: Ethidad Airways – New York City FC, Alaska Airlines – Portland Timbers
The front-of-jersey sponsorships continue to increase in MLS with the LA Galaxy setting the standard at $4.4 million per year but with more clubs rumored to be receiving in the $3-$4 million range. The true indicator for how the league is progressing in increasing sponsorship revenues will come in the coming years with a couple of sponsorship deals set to expire but all factors point toward new records being set.
MLS certainly has a wider reach with a growing market in the U.S. and abroad as well as added exposure that will come from the 8-year broadcast deal for a reported $90 million per year signed with ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision last year.
This alone will help teams get more from their front-of-jersey sponsorship but we are still years away from the mega-deals like Manchester United’s $75 million PER YEAR deal with U.S. car manufacturer Chevy.
Images courtesy of MLS club Instagram.
After 4 seasons with Quaker Oats, the Chicago Fire signed a new partner this offseason. Valspar Paint becomes the first ‘official paint’ of MLS after signing a 3-year deal with the Fire that is rumored to be for between $2.5 and $3 million per season.
“Valspar is a globally recognizable organization with Chicago ties and it was important for us to find a jersey partner that embodies the core values of our Club,” said Chicago Fire Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla. “The company shares our sense of passion and inclusiveness, and it is an honor for us to place its logo alongside our badge.”
The Valspar logo will be worn on the first team jerseys as well as the 9 Academy teams and 15,000 Fire Junior players.
The Minneapolis-based company is the 3rd jersey sponsor for the Fire. They are familiar with the Chicago landscape having been a partner with the Chicago Cubs until being replaced after last season by Benjamin Moore.
The Crew were runners-up in the 2015 MLS Cup and return optimistic about taking the next step in 2016. They will be closing out their 5-year deal with Perio, Inc., the parent company of Barbasol which is the front-of-jersey logo. There is no word on an extension or search for a new sponsor.
The Rapids are in the 2nd year of a 2-year deal with Transamerica.
Leidos returns as the front-of-jersey sponsor for D.C. United and will become more familiar to fans over the coming seasons after the partners extended their deal by 2 years through the 2018 season. The move to the new Buzzard Point location certainly played a part in the extension with some sources saying Leidos could up their partnership and become the naming rights partner for the new facility.
Advocare signed ‘multi-million, multi-year’ deal with FC Dallas in 2012 and they extended the deal in 2014 to run through the 2020 season. The Nutrition/Weight-Loss/Energy/Sports Performance company was the first front-of-jersey sponsor for FC Dallas and upped their ante with the entire league last season. The Plano-based company signed on as MLS’s Official Sports Nutrition Partner in 2015.
Related Article: 2015 MLS Jersey Sponsors
The Houston Dynamo will continue to wear the BHP Billiton logo through 2017 with a 2-year option. The company with 2,000 employees in Houston are also the jersey sponsor for the Houston Dash of the NWSL.
Los Angeles Galaxy
With the highest paying jersey sponsorship in the league, the Los Angeles Galaxy are happy to be in the middle of a 10-year $44 million deal with Herbalife.
The Montreal Impact are in the last season of a 5-year deal with local company BMO Financial. The terms of the deal are rumored to be $4 million per season.
New England Revolution
The New England Revolution and UnitedHealthCare are in the 6th season of their partnership. They were the first front-of-jersey sponsor for the club.
New York City FC
In only the 2nd year of a 5-year contract, New York City FC and Etihad Airways are still getting to know each other yet are well acquainted as Abu Dhabi-based airline is the same jersey sponsor as the City Football Group’s, majority owner of NYCFC, Manchester City in the English Premier League.
New York Red Bulls
The team with arguably the most stability with their jersey sponsor. The club owner, Red Bulls, uses the club jersey to promote the brand for the New York based club as well as other clubs they own around the globe.
Orlando City SC
Orlando City SC has one of the strongest relationships in the league with theirs with Orlando Health. The local health care group originally signed as the club as the front-of-jersey sponsor in 2011 when the team was still playing in the USL Pro Division. The stayed with the club as they moved up to MLS and last year extended the contract through 2021. The new contract extends the association to include the NWSL’s Orlando Pride as well as the Orlando City B team which begins play this season. The home market is covered.
Bimbo is the instantly recognizable sponsor logo on the front of the jerseys of the Philadelphia Union but some fans, especially women fans, still have not taken to the logo.
The bakery remains the teams sponsor reportedly paying $2.3 million per season and while there were some rumors the company would use another one of their brands – Stroehmann’s and Friehofer’s both with strong Philadelphia connections – on the front of the jersey they were incorrect rumors.
“There were never any discussions about [putting] anything but the Bimbo logo on the jersey,” Bimbo Bakeries USA senior vice president Vince Melchiorre told Philly.com last year. “The Bimbo logo is the brand logo that we use on teams throughout the world. We’re going to stay consistent with that.”
“The Bimbo logo is really the important logo.”
The Portland Timbers have not changed sponsors but will have a new look in 2016. Alaska Airlines updated their corporate logo in January and the new logo will be on the Timbers’ jersey when they open their title defense. Team owner Merritt Paulson confirmed the new logo was to be used on team jerseys.
The changes to the logo are subtle with a crisper lettering (less script font) most noticeable on the ‘Airlines’ text.
“It is more of an evolution than a revolution,” the airline’s Vice President of Marketing Sangita Woerner explained of the update.
The Seattle-based airline and the Timbers signed a 2-year extension in 2014 so this is the final year of the contract but it is hard to imagine there is not more value since the club won their first MLS Cup.
The partnership includes some interesting perks that other clubs do not receive from their front-of-jersey sponsors. The airline keeps a Portland Timbers plane in their fleet and to target fans they allow early boarding at the Portland International Airport to any fan wearing an official Portland Timbers jersey
Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake is in the 3rd year of a 10-year deal reported to be worth $3 million per year with LifeVantage.
San Jose Earthquakes
After 4 seasons without a jersey sponsor, the San Jose Earthquakes partnered with Sutter Health as their front-of-jersey sponsor. The deal is rumored to put the northern Californian club among the league’s elite when it comes to jersey sponsors and was worth the wait.
“It puts you on par with a lot of very high-end teams in the league,” team president David Kaval told reporters after the club’s new home jerseys were unveiled.
The Seattle Sounders are eager to win their first MLS Cup and re-establish themselves as the top team in the Pacific Northwest and this could be the best year to take care of business. They are in the final year of their jersey sponsorship with Xbox and some silverware would only enhance their bargaining position.
Sporting KC will not be making any front-of-jersey change soon with a deal with IvyFunds running through the 2022 season.
Toronto FC will be sponsored by BMO Financial although it looks as though this could (again) be the final year of the deal. BMO and Toronto FC agreed to a last minute deal to keep the financial group as front-of-jersey sponsor last season and it was extended for the 2016 campaign as an afterthought to part of a larger partnership deal.
The 1-year jersey sponsorship extension was part of the 10-year renewal of the bank’s naming rights for the newly renovated BMO Field between the club and BMO and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE).
The Vancouver Whitecaps extended their deal with Bell Canada in 2013 that was said to be a ‘multi-year’ deal and valued at $4 million per season.
Who do you think has the best front-of-jersey sponsor? Have you ever bought a jersey because they had a cool jersey sponsor?