The Jersey Boys


For German auto manufacturer Volkswagen, which owns a soccer team in its home country, one of the driving factors of its sponsorship is to build brand awareness in the U.S. The car company recently moved its American headquarters from Michigan to Washington, D.C., and wanted to integrate into the capital community. Building an emotional attachment through soccer is a key element.

"We think that by working in the local markets and local communities and exposing the brand, this will help us develop some relationships with those people and ultimately help sell more cars. But, the first thing we are trying to establish is some sort of emotional connection," said a VW representative.

For others, getting on a global stage is an ambition. "People around the world love soccer. It's especially popular in the Hispanic market, where in the U.S., over 50 percent of our business is in this community," said Des Walsh, Herbalife's evp of operations and sales. "The excitement travels around the globe, as was recently seen in Asia when the Galaxy toured."

That audience becomes more of a tangible reach as the league continues to export its talent overseas. Earlier this month, New York Red Bulls forward Jozy Altidore, considered one of the league's top players, announced his transfer to Spanish club Villareal CF. The price was $10 million -- the highest for any MLS player to date.

"The transfer of American players to international leagues is an important step in elevating their international profile. That means increased competition between MLS teams and international clubs, which is also a benefit to advertisers," said David Sternberg, evp and COO of emerging networks at Fox Cable Networks.

But could the sponsorships now playing out on the soccer field inspire a change in dynamic for the other sports leagues? Reps for MLB, the NBA, the NFL and the NHL have all officially stated that there are no plans to follow suit in selling ad space on their jerseys. However, after reiterating MLB's stance against uniform sponsorships, an MLB rep said, "We will continue to monitor what appears to be an increase in the trend that places non-manufacturer corporate marks on uniforms."

What's more, Brian Cupps, Amplify's vp and group account director, said the company is in talks with several professional leagues. "Those three deals [Best Buy, VW and Microsoft] probably more than the first five or six have really opened up the eyes of the other leagues and could possibly lead to a reevaluation of signage on their jerseys."

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