SBJ/October 29 - November 4, 2007/This Weeks News

MLS signs first official automotive parts sponsor

After years in NASCAR’s fast lane, NAPA Auto Parts is taking an interest in another sports property, signing a three-year, seven-figure deal for MLS with Soccer United Marketing.

The agreement makes NAPA the first official automotive parts sponsor of MLS and gives it national rights, including intellectual property rights, field-board signage, a title night in each of the 14 MLS markets, and print and online advertising.

NAPA, which sponsored the Mexican national soccer team through SUM in 2006-07, pursued the sponsorship to enhance its Hispanic sports marketing portfolio. It renewed its Mexican national team agreement for three years and added MLS to increase the number of markets it reached.

“We looked at boxing, music and other properties but kept coming back to soccer because it had been such a success,” said Eduardo Perez, president of PM Publicidad, a marketing agency representing NAPA. “MLS was a big jump in terms of work activation and the price tag, but after re-evaluating it we realized we were going to be getting a lot of bang for our buck.”

NAPA has also renewed its sponsorship
of the Mexican national team (in white).

NAPA works with Premiere Sports Alliances of Cary, N.C., for its NASCAR activation but will work with PM Publicidad for its MLS and Mexican national team efforts.

With MLS, NAPA plans to activate at retail and also run sales promotions for its wholesale buyers that feature hospitality at events like MLS’s All-Star Game. On-site activation will occur in the 14 MLS markets and will likely be similar to what NAPA did at Mexican national team games this year.

For those events, NAPA set up a 16-by-16-foot canopy stage that featured female dancers nicknamed Las Mecanicas. It also hired a professional juggler who did tricks with a soccer ball and distributed premium giveaways after a spin-the-wheel contest.

“The level of awareness for NAPA is going to be a lot greater with MLS,” Perez said.

NAPA is the fourth new sponsor to join MLS this year. It follows Chase, Visa and Dick’s Sporting Goods into the fold, and SUM executive vice president Kathy Carter sees it as a harbinger of future nontraditional sponsorships for the league.

“This is the first of what we hope will be several sponsorships for MLS in categories the league and our clubs have not been able to activate against,” Carter said. “We’re feeling good about what this holds.”

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