by Han Bowers – The 2019 MLS season, the 24th season for the U.S.’ top division, kicked-off in March and will crown a champion on October 6. The league features 24 clubs with the addition of expansion side FC Cincinnati.
The debutant’s jersey features the Mercy Health as their jersey sponsor but they are not the only club in MLS with a new front-of-jersey sponsor. Check out the industries represented on the 2019 MLS jerseys as well as a little known facts about each deal.
● Beauty & Healthcare – UnitedHealthcare (New England Revolution); Orlando Health (Orlando City SC); AdvoCare (FC Dallas); Herbalife (LA Galaxy); Anderson Cancer Center (Houston Dynamo); LifeVantage (Real Salt Lake); Mercy Health (FC Cincinnati)
● Communications & Technology – Leidos (D.C. United); Bell Canada (Vancouver Whitecaps FC); Motorola (Chicago Fire)
● Entertainment – YouTube TV (Los Angeles FC);
● Financial Services – American Family Insurance (Atlanta United FC); BMO (Montreal Impact and Toronto FC); Transamerica (Colorado Rapids); Ivy Investments (Sporting Kansas City)
● Food/Drink – Red Bull (New York Red Bulls); Bimbo (Philadelphia Union)
● Shopping – Target (Minnesota United), Zulily (Seattle Sounders)
● Transportation – Acura (Columbus Crew SC); Etihad (New York City FC); Alaska Airlines (Portland Timbers)
4 new jersey sponsors will feature on MLS jerseys for the 2019 season. Many other sponsors are in their final year of a contract so this may well be a farewell tour for some. And with multiple sponsors allowed starting in 2020 this could also be an end of an era with single sponsor jerseys.
San Jose Earthquakes
The Earthquakes will be the odd-team-out entering the 2019 season without a sponsor after their contract with Sutter Health expired at the end of the 2018 season. San Jose will be the only team this season competing without a kit sponsor. This may be good news for fans that want a clean jersey without sponsor logos but is certainly a loss for the club.
With the expiration of the team’s partnership with Valspar last season, the Chicago Fire signed a new three-year deal with Motorola starting in the 2019 season. The contract is assumed to produce more revenue for the team than the annual $3 million Valspar contract did previously.
“As a proud Chicago-based company, Motorola is thrilled to further our dedication to our hometown by teaming up with the Chicago Fire Soccer Club,” said Rudi Kalil, vice president and general manager, North America at Motorola.
After not having a kit sponsor last season, Houston has signed a multiyear contract with Anderson Cancer Center. The sponsor is trying to make the home games a more health conscious event as they have already banned all tobacco use inside the stadium and are now pressing food vendors to offer healthier alternatives.
The Sounders jersey will feature the logo of online retail company Zulily. The Seattle based, e-commerce company that used to aim towards moms and small children is in the process of evolving to a broader scope which includes selling sportswear. The new sponsorship will not only be partnered with the men’s MLS team but also the women’s. Financial details have not been disclosed but topping more than the previous annual $4 million Xbox contract shouldn’t be a problem for the new sponsor since Zulily was acquired by QVC parent Qurate for $2.4 billion in 2015 and posted $432 million in revenue final quarter of 2018.
“This is a big commitment to build our brand locally,” Co-founder Darrell Cavens said of the deal.
Columbus Crew SC
The Crew is in the final season of their 3-year partnership with Acura as their kit sponsor. The contract, signed in 2017, broke the club’s record as their most valuable annual sponsorship when it was signed. It was reported to be worth $1.8 million per year. Acura saw the jersey sponsorship as a way to market to a younger generation.
Transamerica and the Rapids will be headed into their final contractual season. Originally the partnership began as a two-year deal in 2015 but was extended to go until the end of 2019. Transamerica is a financial service company that was founded in San Francisco but began their sponsorship to the Colorado Rapids to show that Colorado is a developing center for Transamerica.
New York City FC
2019 will be the final season contracted with the Dubai based, Etihad airways. The deal was originally signed in late 2014 when it became the first official airline sponsor in MLS. The contract also includes naming rights for the team’s playing surface. Etihad sees this sponsorship as a dedication to North American soccer fans, celebrating the global growth in popularity of soccer, especially in America and Canada.
2019 will be the final season contracted with Bimbo Bakeries. The contract originally was signed in 2011 and valued at approximately $2.3 million per season. It is unlikely that the contract will be extended because Union fans have increasingly become offended by the innuendos of the sponsors name, “Bimbo” printed on the front of the teams jerseys.
Los Angeles FC
The Black and Gold will be the only team in the league partnered with a streaming entertainment company, entering into their second season partnered with Youtube TV. With this partnership Youtube TV is trying to crack into the new ways audiences are watching sports. For the past three decades broadcast TV has driven sports value but is now on the decline while the number of soccer fans in America is growing. This trend suggests that fans are using alternative methods to watch games which is why Youtube TV will be broadcasting Los Angeles FC pre and post game shows nationally online but will only make the games viewable for local people in Southern California, unless a $35 per month subscription is bought.
Mercy Health will make their MLS debut along with FC Cincinnati but the partners are in the 2nd year of a 10-year contract. The financial terms of the contract have not been disclosed but has been valued at $5 million a year.
Mercy Health is Ohio’s largest health care company and ranks among Ohio’s top five employers. The company’s goal with the sponsorship is to bring more health related events and facilities to the community. Mercy Health is currently constructing a $30 million training center in Milford Ohio, that when completed will be one of the most advanced soccer centers in North America. The building will hopefully be able to inspire youth players by giving them interaction with professional players.
Orlando City SC
Orlando City will be going into their 8th year of a 10-year contract with their inaugural sponsor, Orlando Health. The contract was originally signed in 2011 when Orlando City was accepted into MLS. Orlando Health and Orlando City SC have a common goal of making central Florida a better place. The soccer team has volunteered more than 550 hours to the community, mostly inside of Orlando Health facilities.
Atlanta United FC
Atlanta United FC are in their 3rd season with American Family Insurance as their jersey sponsor. The Wisconsin based Insurance giant’s decision to get involved with soccer has no doubt paid off with the Georgian club winning the 2018 MLS Cup and many of their top players among those with the best selling-jerseys in the league.
The team has extended their contract with Leidos for the second time. The multiyear contract originally started in 2014 as a three-year deal, then was extended in 2016 to go until 2018, and recently extended again. This comes after D.C. United was openly talking to other companies, such as Amazon, for a 2019 contract. Although the financial terms have not been disclosed the team was aiming to reap around $5 million annually. Leidos is a science and technology solutions company that solves problems dealing with national security, health and engineering. The partnership will allow Leidos to gain publicity internationally.
Continuing with their premier sponsor, AdvoCare will be printed on the front of FC Dallas’ jerseys. The contract which originally began in 2012 has been extended twice and is scheduled to end after the 2020 season. AdvoCare is based in northern Texas and is looking to build brand awareness with the partnership. As part of the sponsorship Advocare also sponsors the jerseys of over 200 teams in FC Dallas’ youth academy programs.
The most lucrative contract in the league will continue with HerbalLife. The contract was originally signed in 2006, but in 2012 was extended for another ten years valued at $44 million. The record as the most lucrative contract may be rivaled as new partnerships in the league begin, and financial terms are nondisclosed. HerbalLife has consistently been committed to supporting the LA community, and in particular the youth, through teaming up with companies like the Children’s Institute. Inc. to provide community driven events.
Minnesota United FC
The Loons will continue to display a large bullseye printed on the front of their jerseys due to a partnership with Target. The multimillion dollar contract was signed in 2017. Financial terms have not been disclosed, but in previous discussions the club valued their jersey at $4 million a year. The sponsorship should come as no surprise since the Minnesota-based company had already owned the naming rights to the Timberwolves home field before becoming and official partner. Also the year previous to signing the contract deal with the Timberwolves, Target discontinued its IndyCar sponsorship and was looking for an alternative growing sport to get into.
The team will be sticking with their long term premier sponsor, Bank of Montreal, who has been their kit sponsor since 2012. Terms of this contract have not been disclosed. BMO has helped grow the Montreal Impact’s fanbase by offering many advantages to BMO customers at the Impact’s home stadium. They also have brought fans into contact with professional players at their #FanFini autograph session, where after every home game two impact players take part in signing autographs for fans.
New England Revolution
UnitedHealthcare is the only kit sponsor the team has ever had. 2019 will be their ninth season together. The CEO of UnitedHealthcare National Accounts, Michael Matteo has said that the partnership was originally created to combat child diabetes and obesity. The company also pledges to provide events that will teach healthy living.
New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls will continue to display the Red Bull logo on the front of their jerseys.
Alaska Airlines will continue to sponsor the Timbers as they have done since 2011. The airline company has many fun deals for Timbers fans, including early boarding for anyone wearing a Timbers Jersey on flights originating from Portland Oregon.
Real Salt Lake
RSL will carry on their partnership with LifeVantage. The contract was signed in 2013 as a ten-year deal for $30 million. LifeVantage is committed to biohacking, where they are trying to “crack the aging code”, they are looking to gain global publicity through the partnership.
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting will continue their long term partnership with Ivy investments, previously known as Ivy Funds. The partnership began in 2013 as a five-year deal but after only two years, it was extended until the end of the 2022 season. Sporting’s Chief of Revenue said to Ivy Funds CEO during a fishing trip that, “the team couldn’t see any other sponsor on the front of the kit over the long term”. Both sides of the contract benefit off of each other, Sporting uses Ivy Funds’ national identity to bring in more fans, Ivy Funds uses team members for speaking events to boost their publicity.
Bank of Montreal will continue to sponsor both Toronto and Montreal’s MLS teams. The partnership with Toronto is much larger; including not only the BMO logo printed onto the teams jerseys but also naming rights to the Red’s home stadium and state-of-the-art training facility. Originally signed in 2007, the contract was extended in 2016 for another ten years. After the extension of the contract, BMO heavily renovated the team’s home stadium named BMO field and aims to use the games to bring the community together.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
The Whitecaps will continue on with their premier sponsor Bell Canada after a multiyear extension was agreed upon right before the 2018 season. Bell Canada has sponsored the team since their first season of MLS in 2011 and has been glorified by the team’s COO for boosting the team’s publicity through community events and media.