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"It's pretty big value when you're thinking about the MLS and where it's positioned in the sporting landscape of the U.S.," said Eric Wright, vp of research and development at Joyce Julius, referring to the league's limited coverage in comparison to other pro sports.

MLS' broadcast partners are ESPN/ABC, Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports en Espanol, HD Net and Univision. Coverage also extends to MLSnet.com, individual team sites, a YouTube channel, online coverage from its broadcast partners and mobile.

Wright added that MLS "does a good job with the jersey sponsorships. Those are very sizeable. And as simple as the notion is, we are always kind of astounded when groups move forward with an offering like that for their sponsor and they don't allow them to have a large enough logo that can easily be seen on TV."

Size, it seems, no longer matters. "What we do a very good job of is taking these players and developing them into personalities. So, you're not seeing a soccer shot from that wide of an angle anymore," said Mike Petruzzi, vp of national advertising sales at Fox Soccer Channel. "I think that lends a tremendous amount of value to the front of the jersey sponsorship."

To measure its ROI, juice maker XanGo -- the first advertiser to sign on for the jersey sponsorship program in 2006, with Real Salt Lake -- employed marketing consultancy Amplify Sports and Entertainment, which uses proprietary measurement tools intended to align a client's business and its sponsorship objectives. "For XanGo, we were extremely successful," said Michael Neuman, president of Amplify.

The firm's analysis found a 3.9-to-1 ROI, correlating to XanGo's business objectives and their assigned financial values based on aspects of the sponsorship. According to Amplify, one of the brand's biggest performers was a charitable program called The World's Largest Soccer Jersey. The effort involved the collection of Real Salt Lake fan autographs, with XanGo donating $10 per 2,000 signatures, and ran from August 2007 through the end of the MLS regular season in late October. Due to TV exposure gained from the giant jersey's placement in the team's Rice-Eccles stadium, the program ranked among the top four elements in the advertiser's media mix. According to Keith Wan, senior account director at Amplify, the value equaled 16 percent of all of XanGo's media exposure.

But, the value of the exposure extends beyond impressions. For BMO Financial Group in Toronto, Canada, the four-year jersey sponsorship and 10-year stadium naming rights deal it cut in 2007 seeks to capitalize on the nation's growing soccer fan base. BMO was motivated by the groundswell of support it saw for the World Cup and European football championships. "This told us that when Toronto FC was being established ... the numbers were going to support us. We knew the general public was really going to grab hold of it," said Sandy Bourne, vp of advertising and corporate sponsorship and events for BMO.

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