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January 12, 2011

On MLS And Shirt Sponsors

Calm down, people.

I’m snooty in general, so I listen to NPR on the 2.3 mile commute from work to my place. It makes me feel superior to the normal people who listen to sports talk radio and Ryan Seacrest.

On Tuesday evening, I made a stop at the grocery store to pick up a couple of things before the latest snow storm, and I heard a report on WHYY out of Philadelphia (Hi Terry Gross!). The report was about the new $12-million sponsorship deal between bakery giant Bimbo (yes, it’s pronounced Beem-bo) and James T’s Philadelphia Union.

The report (which you can read the script for at the above link), starts off with a huge mistake, saying that fans of Liverpool FC don’t consider a shirt real unless it has the iconic Carlsberg logo on the front. Sigh. Sponsor FAIL.

But it makes a decent point about how valuable these shirt sponsorships can be for brands. It’s easily on the order of some NASCAR drivers. I mean, I despise NASCAR, but I still can’t think of Tony Stewart without thinking of Home Depot, even though he left that sponsor a few years ago.

And, in case you didn’t know, Bimbo is easily the largest bakery company in the world. If it’s frosted or leavened (sorry Likely Lad), it’s made by Bimbo or one of its subsidiaries. The company — which is easily among the most recognized brands in Mexico and among the Latino community in the Southwest — recently moved its U.S. headquarters from Houston to the Philly area. The purchase of Sara Lee’s bakery unit and other purchases have positioned the company to dominate the U.S. baked goods market. And being among the larger companies in Philadelphia, it would make sense to attach the Bimbo brand to a sports team that plays to the traditional core demographic of Mexicans and other Latinos.

All in all, this seems like a perfect way for Bimbo to expand beyond its traditional mold and build a stronger brand awareness. The company previously was on the Chivas USA shirt a few years back, but honestly, that deal was preaching brand awareness to the choir.

Yet, for about an hour earlier in the morning, Autoglass ripped the move because it showed just how thin the MLS sponsor market is. He also commented more than once about how nobody would buy a shirt that would offend all women because of the name.

Bollocks. This sponsorship deal is better than most. And by looking at some of the others. Hell, it’s better than when Chelsea wore Autoglass as their shirt sponsor. Just saying.

The truly valuable shirt sponsorships last beyond the term of the deal. Liverpool will always bring memories of Candy or Carlsberg. Manchester United will always conjure Sharp or (unfortunately) AIG. I still see JVC when I think of an Arsenal shirt, Unicef on Barcelona and Opel on AC Milan.

In MLS, the shirt sponsor is an opportunity to broaden a brand. The prime example is the Galaxy’s deal with Herbalife. Do you really think Galaxy supporters — the hard-core supporters — use Herbalife products? No way in hell. But the women who have been drawn to the team when That English Guy was added to the side likely do. It works perfectly.

Throwing out the Red Bulls because it’s easy to see the connection there, there are valuable deals that don’t work as much.

Pop quiz: QUICK! Tell me who the D.C. United shirt sponsor is…

Too late. It’s Volkswagen, and it’s lost on that shirt. The brand gains by its MLS sponsorship, but (and it doesn’t help that DCU sucks balls) I don’t think anyone would automatically think of a Jetta when they hear the team name.

Some of the deals are regional companies trying to expand the brand. Xango at Real Salt Lake, Amigo Energy in Houston (which is now replaced by the international Greenstar Recycling). Some are brands that are jumping into multiple sports areas, such as Amway Global with San Jose and also with the new arena in Orlando.

Not every shirt sponsor needs to be Coke or AT&T. In fact, that’s bad for the teams and bad for those brands. The teams become too dependent on a sponsor that has more options, and the brand doesn’t get the long-term help it desires. In fact, It could be said that VW helps D.C. United more than the other way around. The Best Buy deal with Chicago Fire also struck me as one that just meant to put the brand on the air instead of making a real connection.

But Bimbo and the Philly Union? From a marketing standpoint, it’s perfect. The team is new and will experience growth over the next few years. The company will hope for loyalty to grow, too.

As for the English term “bimbo,” how many people will really make that connection from a tri-color logo with a faux Pillsbury Doughboy bear on top of it? Apparently, Autoglass has some people on his side who reacted in a knee-jerk fashion online after the announcement.

That will fade. This isn’t a new brand, and it isn’t a new company. As it grows, so will the understanding.

And besides, if someone thinks of that connection, they’ll just get the shirt for a friend in South Jersey as a gift.



About the Author

The Stretford End





76 Comments


  1. whizalen

    There’s a big push here in Colorado to get Chipotle or New Belgium to be the new kit sponsor of the Rapids (although I guess liquor companies cannot be on jerseys?). There are rumors it could be an energy company like Vestas and a tie-in by putting up wind turbines on some of the excess land around the dick and having the stadium run 100% on alternative energy. Since I play intermural out at the dick, I can tell you it’s windy out there and as a hippie, I like the idea.

    From what the team’s representatives say, it seems like they’re committed to the sponsor being a Colorado company. Or one, like Vestas, which has a large footprint here. That said, it’ll probably be Coke or something lame.

    I would definitely buy a Chipotle-Rapids jersey


  2. TrentonPorkRollUnion

    MONEY!!!

    i’m a big fan of that bear on their logo. whatever they wear is fine by me, as long as they still play dirty, and we’re still allowed to yell “you suck asshole” in the stands.


  3. Vestas is moving its North American headquarters to Portland, they should sponsor the Timbers once that gets finished.


  4. James T

    I can’t recall making the “Bimbo” joke when they were sponsoring Chivas, so I doubt I’ll start now. Still, part of me would have loved the Union shirt to remain clean, but that has nothing to do with the sponsor they chose.


  5. Sorry TPRU, those kits are horrendous. I know the opinions seem to vary widely but, my god, they look like a little kid did the mock up with construction paper. The “Bimbo” makes them slightly better just because of my adolescent humor, but something needs to be done about your kits. And, just to be far and above-board…the Timbers kits are not much better, if at all.


  6. James T

    Well, TFA, we did already establish that Vancouver’s away shirt is best
    http://unprofessionalfoul.com/2010/12/10/who-has-best-mls-kit-in-pacific-northwest/


  7. TrentonPorkRollUnion

    @TFA, you take that back or get stabbed!

    Nah, I don’t really like any of the MLS jerseys so I’m not surprised so many people dislike the Union’s. I don’t put too much into it. I’m there for the live soccer, everything else is just icing.


  8. I also listen to NPR on the way to work, though my commute is just slightly longer (2.6 mi). Though that speaks less about my desire to feel superior and more towards the wasteland that is the Des Moines radio scene. Sorry, I was distracted. Back to the topic at hand – BIMBO, pshht, HAHAHAHAHA. But seriously, it’s funny for like 2 seconds the first time you see it, but I’m already tired of the hype surrounding it.


  9. @JT: I think it’s “best” by default, since the pickings were quite slim. I would like to see how the Vancouver away jersey is paired up with shorts and socks. Could affect our opinions.


  10. @TPRU: What are you? Liverpudlians of America threatening stabbings? I agree about MLS kits being not great as a rule. Probably has something to do with them all being made by one manufacturer and design team presumably.


  11. TrentonPorkRollUnion

    Sponsorship is way overplayed anyway. It’s not like the team name’s changing. It’s not becoming Bimbo Philadelphia. Only New York would sell their (well, not really theirs) whole team for sponshorship.


  12. @Andrew: It will be funny every time I suddenly come across a Union game. But, again, I am a child.


  13. TrentonPorkRollUnion

    Joke of course TFA. Have a lot of law enforcement family, and apparently the cities of New Jersey go into a stabbing frenzy on the weekends. I never knew the ‘Puds were a stabby bunch. Learn something every day


  14. @TPRU: Stabbings are very popular in England.


  15. TrentonPorkRollUnion

    I’m being told by a coworker that Scotland owns England in overall stabbiness. I’m alarmed at the amount of knife crime going on everywhere, good lord.


  16. @TPRU: you’d be stabby too if you lived in Scotland.
    /knows next to zero about Scotland.


  17. TrentonPorkRollUnion

    Trust me you’d be stabby if you lived in the fine city of Trenton.
    Back on topic; Please let this mean free handouts of tasty baked goods during games!


  18. @TPRU: I don’t know about free, but I would expect their products to be prominently displayed at the concessions for exorbitant prices. although, i would definitely enjoy “Free Bimbo” promotions.


  19. Ryan

    Jacob rated Philly’s kit as a D+, and I think that’s very fair.
    I posted this link yesterday, but my goodness the idiocy is still strong today.


  20. ebullientfatalist

    It could be
    <a href="http://www.gaylord.com/"worse
    .


  21. ebullientfatalist

    Welp, that’s an HTML fail. But you see where I was going: straight to middle school humor.


  22. Ryan

    Thought this link showing the amount of money paid to EPL clubs to be shirt sponsor was interesting as well. Philly’s deal is more valuable than around half of Premier League clubs.


  23. Outside Mid

    If only Bimbo had bought out Hostess instead of Sara Lee, the shirt could incorporate a product too, say Bimbo Ding Dongs/ducks as Twinkies are thrown.


  24. BG

    @TFA: “free bimbo” LOL. I like the low brow stuff.


  25. BG

    That Traitor from Jersey just scored for Villarreal, but it was deflected by a defender so I’m inclined to call it an own goal, even if the official scoresheet doesn’t show that.


  26. @BG: I am kind of over the Rossi “traitor” stuff…I am reserving all of my bile, vitriol and hatred for FIFA, Sepp and his super-friends. And, Lebron. What a douche.


  27. TrentonPorkRollUnion

    Il Tratidore must never be forgotten!! Even though 95% of North Jersey/New York would have done the exact same thing in his shoes.


  28. RFCSean

    I’ve gotten over the fact that Beeeembo is our sponsor, but our beautiful, classy jersey is mucked up with that sponsor logo on front. Once the jersey is tweaked (next season) it will look much better.

    B-I-M-B-O, B-I-M-B-O, B-I-M-B-O, and BEEMBO is our name-o!

    “We might be bimbos, but your team is F*#%ed!”


  29. Wacman

    Ipswich just shot the ball!


  30. Outside Mid

    @ Wac: Is it my picture or is that a wider than normal pitch?


  31. Fuck Liverpool in the pants. That is all


  32. Wacman

    It seems wide, but not overly… (Sopcast doesn’t lend me to be the authority here lol)


  33. Wacman

    Classic Arsenal performance, 30 min in, dominating play, just about nothing to show for it


  34. Ryan

    Moyes looks a little different in a proper coat.


  35. @ryan, you should see him in a suit


  36. Ryan

    Heh. Ian Holloway sending a text.


  37. Whenever Moyes leaves I want Holloway as our manager. That shot of him texting on the sideline is beautiful


  38. Ryan

    Nice thick meaty scarf on him as well.


  39. Ryan

    Arsenal supporters on Twitter don’t seem to be all that pleased with their 0-0 with Ipswich so far.


  40. Outside Mid

    @ Ryan: Yeah, wondering if the “no silverware this year” itch is getting to them.


  41. ebullientfatalist

    From what Gamecast tells me, Arsenal will lose this game. Of course we will. We’ll lose to a team sitting in 19th place in the N’ship.


  42. Outside Mid

    JWAF just got told to cool it with the challenges it looks.


  43. Outside Mid

    @ EF: Don’t know, can Ipswich hold out for the full 90? Song and Chamakh are coming on now–betting they’ll be the difference against these Tractor Boys


  44. Ryan

    @ef: Don’t beat yourself up over it, Ipswich are tough. They recently covered the spread of +7.5 v. Chelsea.


  45. Outside Mid

    Nice stop by Fulop on Theo there.


  46. ebullientfatalist

    @Ryan: Clever.


  47. Outside Mid

    Wait, did Ipswich just score?


  48. ebullientfatalist

    Goodnight.


  49. Outside Mid

    Yeah, Vela’s coming on, time to say good night Gooners.


  50. Blackpool is officially my second favorite team right now


  51. Ryan

    2-1 Blackpool. Definitely a freer aspect to Liverpool’s play. Unfortunately, it’s in the variety of headers they are giving up.


  52. So is King Kenny going to take LFC down to the Championship? Jesus.


  53. TD Ocho

    I guess I’m super late to the party, but I don’t mind the fact that the Union will be sponsored by Bimbo. What I do mind is that it looks like someone slapped a huge bumper sticker on the front of the shirt. Sponsors are a necessary evil, but they can be incorporated better than Bimbo has. I went to Modell’s after work yesterday and bought a pristine old jersey.


  54. Outside Mid

    Eh, Blackpool will probably give up a late goal to settle as a draw.


  55. Barca v. Betis in Copa Del Rey action. Betis finished 4th in the Segunda Liga last year, and are currently 3rd this year. But remember when they beat Chelsea 1-0 at home in the Champions League. It was 2005 group stages. I remember because I signed Dani to my Winning Eleven 8 team that same day.


  56. BG

    @TFA: only if Maradona turns down Henry’s offer. /snicker


  57. Outside Mid

    @ Ocho: Think you’re dead on with it–the logo just doesn’t fit well with the jersey; another case of West Brom-itis.


  58. Damnit, I almost picked Blackpool to win outright. I knew I shoulda pulled the trigger on that one.


  59. new manager bounce…down the table…effect!!


  60. Outside Mid

    KING KENNY–OUT. Should have brought in Rangnick.


  61. Wacman

    I’m glad I spent most of the 2nd half playing the PES demo…god we suck


  62. jgaugust

    I’m pretty sure a pile of garbage would have played better than us tonight.

    That was a woeful display from us. I’m stunned, shocked, and disappointed.


  63. Life is good right now


  64. Ryan

    I agree with both of you about the logo not fitting with the shirt, but I really don’t think there was anything that could be done. I saw a mock-up where the Bimbo logo was changed to Union blue and gold, and it still looked ugly.


  65. @Ryan: no saving that kit.


  66. Autoglass

    “He also commented more than once about how nobody would buy a shirt that would offend all women because of the name.”

    What?! I never said that. I said that they would sell fewer shirts because a significant portion of people who would otherwise buy the shirt would not buy a shirt with “Bimbo” on it. Like many women. And all daughters. This is just so obvious that I don’t get how it can be argued. Are you saying that Bimbo will have NO effect on shirt sales? A positive effect?

    It’s money before sense. That’s all.


  67. bergkampesdios

    Giving nothing to the performance, cause it was terrible, but that Ip-ip-ip-them shithead was a yard and a half offside on his goal. The linesman was right there and to miss it was inexcusable.
    Switching gears – I’ve lived in DC for a very long time, I’m a season ticket holder, and I completely disagree about the pervasiveness of the VW brand. It is everywhere and I can barely remember what their shirts looked like before the sponsorship. Maybe from the outside looking in it gets lost, but try going to RFK for one game and forgetting it.
    And yes, DC United is horrible right now, but it’s still the best franchise in the history of the league. And that’s with an old, decrepit football stadium in the hood.


  68. WhoNeedsForwards

    I like the Timbers new kits…and AA is a quality sponsor. A little disappointed no random eskimo on the kit though.


  69. Draw

    1. DC United was only horrible this year.

    2. Everyone in the area knows it’s Volkswagen. It’s easy to find on the shirt. See, there’s a V, and then a W.

    3. Herbalife is a pyramid scheme.

    4. Xango is a pseudo-scientific drink on the level of things sold in late night informercials.

    5. No sponsor in the history of the world is worse than AIG.


  70. pradajames

    The Riot Squad smokes herb, Herbalife…not so much


  71. pradajames

    Northern Rock can square up against AIG:

    from Wikipedia:
    Northern Rock plc (former London Stock Exchange ticker symbol NRK) is a British bank, best known for becoming the first bank in 150 years to suffer a bank run after having had to approach the Bank of England for a loan facility, to replace money market funding, during the credit crisis in 2007


  72. Ryan

    “Anfield Stadium will be rockin’ as Liverpool take on the Toffees of Everton”
    Oh FSC, I hate you so much.


  73. Tno

    I think that Volkswagen is pretty commonly known to be DC’s sponsor (at least within the soccer community). I hate the Bimbo logo. I see Bimbo every time i go to the park here in SoCal.


  74. BellaBoy

    Bimbo will hurt Union jersey sales like “Cocks” hurts South Carolina’s merchandising


  75. @Ryan, I just gagged reading that statement



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