MLS to Market FC Barcelona in the U.S.

NEW YORK Major League Soccer has signed a five-year strategic partnership agreement with FC Barcelona. MLS’ marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing, will have oversight for sales as well as marketing, public relations and other strategic alliances in the U.S. for the European soccer club.

Six international matches are also part of the package, though details about those contests, as well as media coverage, are still being finalized. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

MLS commissioner Don Garber emphasized the goal of expanding the market, both for the league and FCB. “We want to have the super clubs look at how they can partner with us — the young child in this global sport — to help grow it in probably the most commercial, and one of the most influential, markets in the world,” he said.

FCB wishes to gain global brand equity. “[Soccer] is one of the few sports that can be truly global. But, to be global, we have to have strong roots,” said Ferran Soriano, FCB vice chairman.

Added Garber: “It’s not about exploiting the market, it’s about growing it.”

Garber also noted FCB’s philanthropic endeavors as spurring on the partnership, because the club’s dedication to social causes in some ways mirrors the league’s own community outreach initiative, known as MLS WORKS.

Typically, clubs will reserve jersey space for advertisers, but the century-old club — run as a nonprofit company — has elected to place the symbol of the Unicef relief organization on the front of its shirts.

“Our goal is not to make a profit, but rather to do good for the world,” said Soriano. The cost of not having a commercial sponsor, he said, equals $30 million.