SBJ/May 21 - 27, 2007/This Weeks News

Sponsors boost prime-time MLS games

During its first five Thursday night prime-time games this season, Major League Soccer has gotten a boost from corporate partners who have supplemented ESPN2’s broadcast coverage with local activation.

Budweiser is among the MLS partners who
have activated locally around the league’s
Thursday night games this season.

Partners Adidas and Budweiser have led the effort, offering giveaways, promotions and on-site presence in Los Angeles, Columbus, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. The activation has been designed to raise awareness and encourage attendance at the Thursday night games, which have averaged 14,172 fans so far this season.

“I anticipate in short order this will take on a value similar to our MLS All-Star Game or MLS Cup, where a number of sponsors activate around it,” said David Wright, senior director of partnership marketing for Soccer United Marketing.

Adidas has provided 3,000 T-shirts to teams hosting Thursday night games and encouraged the teams to leverage them for ticket sales by offering them for group-sales packages. The company also has brought its “Impossible is Nothing” truck to select markets.

Anheuser-Busch has done promotions on two radio stations in each market for the entire week preceding Thursday night games. It has provided the radio team with MLS memorabilia and tickets to give away during broadcasts.

“As the season progresses, we may extend it from radio to on-premise activation at retail prior to really help generate viewership and ticket sales for MLS,” said Mike Thompsen, senior manager, international sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch.

Other partners have made hospitality plans around games in certain markets. Gatorade offered its employees special ticket prices to the game in Chicago, while both Panasonic and Kraft have hospitality plans in New York when the Red Bulls host the Chicago Fire this week.

The activation efforts have added to the atmosphere of the game and given the partners a chance to reach people on-site, not just through the broadcasts, where they advertise, Wright said. He added that the league is in discussions with other partners about getting involved.

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