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MLS renews Volkswagen with 4-year deal

MLS picked up a third key renewal ahead of the start of its season, signing a four-year deal with Volkswagen that will see the German automotive company return as the official vehicle of the league.

The deal with Volkswagen gives MLS an automotive partner at a time when many companies in that industry are making severe cutbacks in sports spending. The four-year deal expands considerably on the one-year partnership the German company signed with MLS last year as part of its agreement to be the jersey sponsor of the D.C. United.

Volkswagen signed a one-year MLS
deal last year as part of its D.C.
United jersey sponsorship.

Terms of the deal were not available. Kathy Carter, executive vice president off Soccer United Marketing, characterized it as an extension of last year’s deal with a “slight increase” and a commitment to media buys with MLS broadcasters ESPN, Univision and Fox Soccer Channel. Volkswagen receives rights to MLS marks, signage during national broadcasts, and grassroots promotion at SUM's four-on-four Futbolito tournament.

“For us, this sponsorship goes deep in terms of our positioning and marketing efforts to reach family and Hispanic audiences,” said Ben Freidson, Volkswagen’s manager of sports marketing. “We have a lot of vehicles that match up with those audiences, and we saw the need for a sponsorship with MLS because it’s a really good strategic fit for us.”

Volkswagen waited to make a decision about renewing with MLS until it had completely analyzed its marketing and promotion around the 2008 MLS Cup. The company put out a series of six webisodes ahead of the event, called the “VW Road to the Cup,” that featured a soccer mom driving MLS players and the MLS Cup trophy across country in a Routan minivan. The series generated hundreds of thousands of dollars of general market and Hispanic public relations exposure, according to company estimates.

“We had really good PR coverage both in print and television, and definitely saw it resonate in the L.A., Houston and Chicago market,” Freidson said. “We were able to get a lot of ancillary media coverage out of it with ESPN, Univision and Fox Soccer.”

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