MLS teams continue getting value from make-goods

By Mark J. Burns
Virtual ads on the goal line carpets have helped several MLS clubs retain crucial revenue this season.New York Red Bulls

Much of the MLS make-good sponsorship assets created during the 2020 season — like virtual and physical tarps on seats, virtual goal line carpets on both sides of the net and a brand position on a kit’s left jersey sleeve — carried over into the current campaign, with several teams finding ample opportunity to recoup revenue.

 

“I would say it’s been several hundred thousand dollars,” said John Walker, president of business operations for the Houston Dynamo FC, when asked how much sponsorship money the club has recouped in 2021 through the use of the make-good opportunities. For the Philadelphia Union, the team has retained 86% of overall sponsorship revenue in 2021, according to Charlie Slonaker, chief revenue officer.

The Dynamo’s Walker said that for the first five home matches this season, which featured seating capacity of 30% to 50% at BBVA Stadium, the club was able to still leverage virtual seat signage in the lower bowl, integrating the likes of Heineken, Kroger and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, among other sponsors, across seven placements. That opportunity ceased beginning July 3 when the Dynamo moved to 100% capacity.

M.D. Anderson, the team’s kit sponsor since 2019 and one of its top-spending brands, appears on the Dynamo’s left jersey sleeve while the health organization also has placement on a co-branded facemask, another revenue-retention asset made available by MLS for 2021. Like the Dynamo, the New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC, for example, took advantage of the co-branded personal protective equipment opportunity this year, placing health care providers Hackensack Meridian Health and Vanderbilt Health, respectively, on the facemasks.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls also have utilized 12 different sponsors, from Audi and Affinity Federal Credit Union to Heineken and Hospital for Special Surgery, for the virtual goal line carpets. According to Darren Meyer, senior director of marketing partnerships and premium services, based on MLS guidelines, teams have been allowed to rotate up to eight goal line sponsors per match in that position.

“The goal line carpets are probably the most valuable because we’ve never been able to do that before,” he said. Meyer estimated that the Red Bulls “had the potential of losing 30% or 40% [of sponsorship revenue] if we weren’t able to use these new assets,” but based on their availability, “there wasn’t a single dollar that we had to give back” to sponsors.

Hervé Blanchard, director of partnerships strategy and business development for CF Montréal — which has played a majority of its home matches in 2021 at Inter Miami CF’s DRV PNK Stadium based on local restrictions in Quebec — said the club integrated 14 brands across 18 different virtual placement opportunities between inner bowl seat branding and the goal line carpets.

“We were able to maximize our opportunities over the last two years,” he said, “but I still can’t replace fan engagement or fan experience just with brand visibility on virtual. It doesn’t have the same weight. There is a threshold in visibility.”

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