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How do MLS kit sponsorship values compare to Europe?

Kit sponsorship is one of the most important revenue streams for a football club, alongside ticket and match-day revenue, merchandise sales, television broadcast rights, and corporate partnerships.

Unlike the other revenue streams, kit sponsorship takes on an added level of importance beyond just the revenue generated.

It is essentially the amount that a company is willing to pay to use the football club as a platform for connecting its brand to the club’s supporters, and can signal to other potential sponsors the value of one club’s platform versus another.

Thus, teams often consider both the amount of money involved and the reputation risk with being associated with that company.

The top kit sponsorship deals in MLS:

1 Los Angeles Galaxy: $4.4 million / year from vitamin manufacturer Herbalife

2= Montreal Impact: $4 million / year from Bank of Montreal

2= Seattle Sounders: $4 million / year from Microsoft, for its XBox video game system

2= Toronto F.C.: $4 million / year from also Bank of Montreal

5 Vancouver Whitecaps: $3.87 million / year from telecoms conglomerate Bell Canada

6= Portland Timbers: $3 million / year from Alaska Airlines

6= Philadelphia Union: $3 million / year from baked goods organisation Grupo Bimbo

8 D.C. United: $2.80 million / year from automaker Volkswagen

9 Chicago Fire: $2.67 million / year from consumer foods giant Quaker

10 Houston Dynamo: $2.54 million / year from energy company Greenstar

11 Chivas USA: $2 million / year from beer brand Corona

12 Columbus Crew: $1.5 million / year from male grooming company Barbasol

13 Real Salt Lake: $1 million / year from health juice manufacturer XanGo

Four teams (Colorado Rapids, F.C. Dallas, San Jose Earthquakes, and Sporting Kansas City) do not currently have kit sponsors. New England Revolution’s recent sponsorship deal with United Healthcare was for an undisclosed amount. New York Red Bulls are sponsored by its parent company, energy drinks giant Red Bull.

Notable trends in kit sponsorships in the MLS:

  • Not surprisingly, teams in larger markets command large kit sponsorship fees from companies that do business on a national scale.
  • While no MLS team comes close to Champions League stalwarts such as Manchester United or Real Madrid, the top earners in MLS do earn similar levels as well-supported, small-market Premier League or Serie A teams, such as an Everton or a Fiorentina.
  • The bottom earners in MLS earn similar levels to the bottom earners in La Liga, such as Getafe.
  • Canadian clubs have earned more than U.S. clubs on average to date, though this is likely a function of these clubs only recently entering the MLS while other, larger U.S. markets are still working on older, less lucrative commitments.
  • Clubs in smaller markets with strong local fan bases can command a premium from a locally-based sponsor. For example, Seattle earns much more from a locally-based sponsor than D.C. United does from a sponsor that is an active sport sponsorship spender but is not based locally. In total, eight MLS clubs have locally-based sponsors (Los Angeles, Montreal, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Houston, Chivas, and Salt Lake).
  • Bank of Montreal, a national Canadian bank, clearly wanted an equal presence in two of its biggest markets, Montreal and Toronto, and presumably inked deals at similar levels so as to not be seen as supporting one market over another, the name of the bank notwithstanding.

Selected European kit sponsorship deals:

  • Bayern Munich: $37.30 million / year from Deutsche Telekom
  • Manchester United: $33.00 million / year from energy organisation Aon
  • Real Madrid: $29.39 million / year from online betting house Bwin
  • AC Milan: $20.31 million / year from airline Emirates
  • Hamburg SV: $13.46 million / year from airline Emirates
  • Fiorentina: $5.20 million / year from automaker Mazda
  • Everton: $3.38 million / year from beer distributor Chang
  • West Bromwich Albion: $3.20 million / year from gaming organisation Bodog
  • Celtic / Rangers (joint): $2.42 million / year from beer conglomerate Tennant’s
  • Getafe: $1.42 million / year from fast-food chain Burger King

Sources: BBC, Bleacher Report, Daily Mail, Daily Record, ESPN, Football Magazine, Football Sports Culture, Houston Chronicle, Inside Spanish Football, Marketing Magazine, New York Times, Sport Business, Sports Business Journal, Sports Illustrated, SportsPro Media, Telegraph, Vancouver Sun, Wall Street Journal, Yahoo

By Sreesha Vaman

Follow me on twitter: @SreeshaVaman

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