SBJ/20080107/This Week's News

Sponsors back SUM’s new event

Soccer United Marketing’s newest property, the Pan-Pacific Championship, is poised to make a modest profit in its first year, and the agency hasn’t even sold a ticket yet.

Pan-Pacific players (from left): MLJ’s Itani, the J.League’s
Kenji Onitake, MLS’s Rodriguez, the Houston Dynamo’s
Brian Ching and Hawaii Lt. Gov. James Aiona Jr.
SUM has signed a presenting sponsor for the event, scheduled to take place Feb. 20 and 23 in Hawaii’s Aloha Stadium. MLJ, a Japan-based technology company that distributes digital content for mobile phones and Web sites, signed a multiyear deal late last year that sources put in the low seven figures annually.

Additional support is expected from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which will likely provide a one-year subsidy in the low six figures for the event, sources said. The tourism authority pays the NFL about $4 million annually for the Pro Bowl.

Other sponsorships are being completed in Japan, where Japanese agency Dentsu is working to fill airline, travel agency and automotive categories. Additional domestic partnerships are possible as well, though SUM executives declined to disclose the categories being targeted.

“We’re confident, after this first year, this event will be profitable for us, at least modestly,” said Nelson Rodriguez, MLS senior vice president of strategic business development. “What we’re concerned about is long term. Everything we’re trying to do is to make this event sustainable, viable and successful long term.”

The inaugural event is designed to determine the top club from the Asian and North American soccer federation. It will feature MLS Cup champion the Houston Dynamo, Japan’s J.League champion Gamba Osaka, SuperLiga runner-up Los Angeles Galaxy and an undetermined finalist from Australia’s Hyundai A-league.

The concept grew out of a business plan developed by a former SUM intern, Takehiko Nakamura, who came up with the idea to create a Pan-Pacific competition in Hawaii three years ago. He now works for SUM as an international business manager.

The primary costs associated with the event include travel and board for each participating club. Hotel expenses are being offset by a value-in-kind deal with the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa.

A modest purse is being distributed as well. The first-place team will win $75,000, second $50,000 and third $25,000.

The bulk of those expenses are being offset by MLJ’s presenting sponsorship deal. MLJ receives the exclusive mobile and online rights to games in Japan, logo exposure in all worldwide advertisements promoting the tournament, and ad inventory during Japanese and U.S. broadcasts.

“We [see] this Pan-Pacific Championship sponsorship as one of the best opportunities to showcase not only our cutting-edge technology but ourselves as an innovative company [new] to the USA,” said Ken Itani, MLJ’s CEO and president.

SUM doesn’t have a U.S. broadcast partner, but Rodriguez expects that one will be secured in the coming weeks.

Tickets for the Pan-Pacific Championship went on sale Dec. 18.

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