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  • Ben Drain

Just how Important are Jersey Sponsorships in Soccer?

When the 2020 MLS season kicks off in a few months, one team will be displaying a fresh, new look. The Columbus Crew has decided not to feature a sponsorship on their jerseys, spurning the chance for additional revenue that has become commonplace in soccer. For MLS teams, jersey sponsorships typically range from $500,000 to upwards of $4 million per year, depending on the size of the market. The LA Galaxy are in the midst of a 10-year deal with Herbalife that is worth $4.4 million per year. Los Angeles is obviously a much larger market than Columbus. As such, a market like Columbus would warrant a deal no higher than $2 million, according to Jeff Chilcoat, someone who has worked on the Crew’s sponsorships in the past.

There are several reasons the Crew may have chosen to go in this direction. Primarily, the club is moving to a new stadium the following season. This new stadium is yet to have a sponsor, something that will bring in more revenue down the line, potentially lessening the desire to rush into a jersey sponsorship deal this season. Naming rights for MLS stadiums average around $2 million per year, with deals sometimes lasting up to 15 years. The length of the deals, both jersey sponsorships and stadium naming rights, could be a source of hesitation. The MLS is growing year after year, and it may be hard for the Crew to predict the value of their image 10-15 years down the line. If they rush into a long-term deal with a company to put their corporate logo on Columbus jerseys, 10 years down the line, the Crew may be grievously undercompensated. It may be advantageous to delay a partnership for a season or two to make sure that their long-term financial opportunities are maximized. Additionally, I think the sponsor-less jerseys look pretty good how they are.

Although uniform sponsors have been commonplace in the soccer world for years, it is only now becoming more common in other sports, with the newly formed XFL featuring helmet sponsorships and the NBA’s jersey patches. The NBA’s addition of a 2.5-inch by 2.5-inch patch on jerseys back in 2017 was met with a significant amount of pushback from fans and media.

Personally, I’ve not had an issue with it at all, and I don’t think they’re too noticeable. I’ve seen the values of these particular sponsorships spanning ranges of $5 million to $20 million per season. The NBA is more popular and attracts more eyes than the MLS, so the price differential is not surprising, but what is surprising is the length of the deals. MLS sponsorship deals are around 10 years in length, whereas the NBA features 3-5 year deals. This increased flexibility will only better the financial state of teams as their value continues to grow every year. I am certainly not complaining if more teams have deeper pockets to construct better rosters, improving the overall level of competition in the NBA.

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