SBJ/May 7 - 13, 2007/This Weeks News

SUM explores options in Canada

Major League Soccer and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment executives are discussing the creation of a new arm of Soccer United Marketing — SUM Canada — less than two weeks after the league’s Canadian debut.

Through a licensing agreement, MLSE already represents marketing rights in Canada for the league and its 13 teams, but extending that licensing agreement to all SUM operations would allow MLSE to represent other SUM properties and become a turnkey sales force for soccer in Canada.

“Although the discussions are in their preliminary stages, we at SUM look forward to working with MLSE as we begin looking at commercial opportunities in Canada that make sense for our business,” said SUM President Doug Quinn.

Both MLSE and SUM executives are encouraged by the possibilities of a SUM Canada after seeing the response to Toronto FC in its first season. The team is the first in MLS to sell out of season tickets and is positioned to become the first to sell out every home game.

If created, the operation would mirror the NBA’s venture in Canada, said Tom Anselmi, MLSE’s chief operating officer. MLSE currently pays the NBA a fee to sell the league’s marks in the Canadian marketplace. Since 2005, it has sold exclusive Canadian partnerships with Juicy Fruit for gum and Speed Stick for deodorant/antiperspirant.

“Right now, there’s more of an appetite for basketball,” Anselmi said, “but we may do something similar with MLS.”

To date, MLSE has sold team sponsorship packages only for Toronto FC. But Anselmi believes there will eventually be interest in acquiring rights to the MLS logo and players, especially should Toronto be awarded an MLS All-Star Game in the future.

Ultimately, MLSE would like to emulate the SUM model and become one-stop shopping for soccer in Canada in the same way SUM is for the sport in the U.S. The goal would be to acquire the rights of the Canadian Soccer Association, which is currently represented by Soccer Canada Properties, a joint venture between IMG Canada and CSA.

If MLSE could acquire those rights, it could represent CSA in the marketplace along with MLS and Toronto FC, reducing competition for soccer sales.

Ultimately, the form of a SUM Canada venture will have to be determined by the board of governors’ business development committee, which then would have to take it to the full board for approval.

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