SBJ/March 21 - 27, 2005/SBJ In Depth

SUM of all parts: Marketing arm boosts awareness of soccer

Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm for Major League Soccer, has swallowed up the rights to most major soccer properties in this country while growing the league’s corporate base and international interests.

Headquartered in New York, in the same offices as MLS, Soccer United Marketing (SUM) represents all commercial rights for the league and holds the English-language broadcast rights for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Additionally, SUM is the largest promoter of international soccer matches in the United States, including being the exclusive U.S. promoter and marketing representative for the Mexican national team and its annual tour across the country. If this seems strange, it is. Not every day do you see a national federation from one of the United States’ biggest on-field rivals placing its marketing and game promotion rights with a U.S. company.

SUM also owns the marketing rights to the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams, along with the marketing, promotional and broadcast rights in the United States for InterLiga, the annual qualifying tournament that determines the automatic berths for Mexican clubs to the Copa Libertadores tournament.

SUM is promotional partners with CONCACAF for the Gold Cup event this summer and Chivas de Guadalajara, the famous Mexican club whose owner started a sister team in MLS this year.

Don Garber, chief executive officer of Soccer United Marketing and commissioner of MLS, said the company was created in 2002 after the league eliminated the clubs in Tampa and Miami following the 2001 season.

“Rather than continue to slug it out, we took a step back, made a tough decision to contract by two teams and get very focused on things that would help us reinvigorate the sport of professional soccer,” Garber said. “Let’s take the money we were pouring into a bunch of teams that were struggling and put that into investing into expanding our ownership of the sport outside of our local teams.”

Ivan Gazidis, deputy commissioner of MLS and president of SUM International, said the company simply wanted to consolidate all the soccer properties in the country under one roof while expanding the international opportunities for the league.

“We wanted to try to get our arms around everything that was happening in soccer in this country,” Gazidis said. “In the space of two and a half years, SUM has acquired all of the major soccer properties in this part of the world.”

And it’s beginning to pay off, literally. The company brought Adidas on board last year as part of a 10-year, $150 million sponsorship deal that Doug Quinn, executive vice president of MLS and president of SUM Enterprises, said will increase awareness in corporate America and abroad.

“If you want to come in and talk to us about core soccer fans, we can deliver that,” Quinn said. “If you want to talk to us about the youth and moms and dads that are attached to those youth, we’ve got that. If you want to talk to us about the U.S. Hispanic, specifically the Mexicans, we’ve definitely got that.”

With the addition of Chivas USA this year, several Mexican and even European clubs have already approached SUM and MLS, expressing interest in developing a similar U.S. strategy.

Garber said a successful performance from Chivas USA could open the doors to even larger opportunities.

“It’s not inconceivable that in years to come you will see Real Madrid or Manchester United or Arsenal or Boca Juniors or another team from Asia, perhaps Japan or China, looking at getting involved in investing in Major League Soccer,” Garber said.

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Related Topics:

Chivas USA, MLS, In-Depth, Soccer

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