2019 MLS kit and shirt sponsors
Since 2008 the MLS has increased immensely. The average club value has gone from $37 million to $240 million in 2018. And where there were only 14 teams a decade ago, the addition of FC Cincinnati will make that the 2019 MLS season will have 24 teams. With more teams scheduled to enter and the continuing growth, the MLS is an interesting entity to sponsor.
So we have taken a look at the 2019 MLS shirt sponsors, what the deal is with the league-wide kit sponsorship deal and the introduction of sleeve sponsors.
Since 2004 the MLS has a league-wide supply deal with Adidas. Meaning that the German brand does not only supply league affiliates, officials and the match ball, they outfit all 24 MLS teams. The partnership has been extended through 2024 and reports suggest that the current six-year deal is worth $700 million.
This league-wide approach differs from many major football leagues, where clubs are allowed to broker their own kit sponsorship deals. A policy that has led to a £75 million (around €86M) per year kit deal between Manchester United and Adidas and €155 million per year deal between Barcelona and Nike.
Although there is no room to pick their own kit sponsors, MLS teams do have the opportunity to negotiate their own shirt sponsorship deals. And so where there is uniformity in the kit sponsor, there is a lot of diversity among shirt sponsors.
Shirt sponsors – key takeaways
- San Jose Earthquakes is the only team out of 24 without a shirt sponsor
- 22 different companies sponsor the 2019 MLS teams
- BMO is the only brand sponsoring multiple teams (2 – Montreal Impact and Toronto FC)
- Red Bull is the only company whose name is integrated into the team name – New York Red Bulls
It is interesting to see the kind of services and products these brands deliver to the market and to compare them with other leagues. For example if you look at the 2018-2019 Premier League shirt sponsors, 9 out of 20 shirt sponsors are gambling companies. The MLS has none, because regulation prevents them from promoting gambling companies. However, there are healthcare related sponsors in the MLS, while the Premier League has none.
So in which industries are the MLS teams’ sponsors active?
We can roughly categorise the 22 different companies into 12 different industries. The financial services and healthcare industries each have four companies sponsoring MLS teams. With financial service company BMO sponsoring two teams, there are five teams promoting financial services.
Other industries with multiple companies acting as MLS sponsor are the multi-level marketing (3), telecommunications and airline (both 2) industries.
Breakdown of 2019 MLS shirt sponsors per industry
Where do the shirt sponsors come from?
To see where the shirt sponsors come from we looked at where the companies have their headquarters. Key takeaways:
- Most of the shirt sponsors come from the MLS countries: USA (17) and Canada (3)
- Three sponsors come from abroad; they come from Japan, UAE and Austria (all 1)
- 13 teams have a shirt sponsor from their home state or city
|Team||Shirt sponsor||Industry shirt sponsor|
|Atlanta United FC||American Family Insurance||Financial services|
|FC Cincinnati||Mercy Health||Healthcare|
|Colorado Rapids||Transamerica||Financial services||Columbus Crew SC||Acura||Automotive|
|FC Dallas||AdvoCare||Multi-level marketing|
|D.C. United||Leidos||Security and technology|
|Houston Dynamo||MD Anderson Cancer Center||Healthcare||LAFC||YouTube TV||Pay television|
|LA Galaxy||Herbalife Nutrition||Multi-level marketing|
|Montreal Impact||BMO||Financial services||New England Revolution||UHC United Healthcare||Healthcare|
|New York City FC||Etihad Airways||Airline|
|New York Red Bulls||Red Bull||Beverage/Conglomerate|
|Orlando City SC||Orlando Health||Healthcare||Philadelphia Union||Bimbo||Food processing|
|Portland Timbers||Alaska Airlines||Airline|
|Real Salt Lake||LifeVantage||Multi-level marketing|
|San Jose Earthquakes||–||–||Seattle Sounders FC||Zulily||E-commerce|
|Sporting Kansas City||Ivy Investments||Financial services|
|Toronto FC||BMO||Financial services|
Sleeve sponsors from 2020 onwards
In October 2018 the MLS announced that it would allow sleeve sponsors from the 2020 season onwards. The four-year pilot will give the teams an extra income stream in addition to the front of a shirt sponsor. Reports suggest that a deal could generate anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million per year.
MLS vs. Europe
With the league-wide Adidas deal, the MLS teams are limited in the amount of money they can generate from sponsorship compared to their European counterparts. However, with the introduction of sleeve sponsorships and the league’s growth, the teams will have extra income in the future.