SBJ/20100517/This Week's News

SUM plans new office to support Canada’s MLS teams

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

In the wake of MLS’s announcement that it will add a third Canadian team in Montreal, Soccer United Marketing has begun finalizing plans to support the Canadian clubs.

SUM, MLS’s marketing agency, plans to open an office in Canada that will sell MLS intellectual property rights across the country. It also plans to bid for the rights to manage exhibition games and sell sponsorships for the Canadian Soccer Association, which will see its marketing agreement with IMG expire at the end of this year.

The effort highlights SUM’s aspiration to become the leader in soccer not just in the U.S. but across North America. It already has rights to the Mexican soccer federation and is planning to open an office in Mexico City to support that business. It is also in discussions with the Mexican federation about playing exhibition games in Canada.

SUM also plans to bid for
exhibition, sponsorship
rights to the Canadian
Soccer Association.

“We look at the region of North America — not just the U.S., not just Mexico, not just Canada — as being our market,” said Doug Quinn, SUM’s president. “Our plans for Canada are taking shape. We’re going to put people up there and manage that business sooner than later.”

New Montreal owner Joey Saputo said, “It will be great for the three Canadian clubs to take advantage of the corporate opportunities here in Canada. [SUM Canada] is a great initiative and it will be well-supported.”

SUM was created in 2001 after MLS acquired the broadcast rights for the 2002 World Cup. The agency later acquired the rights to the Mexican national team and other properties. Its portfolio includes U.S. representation of the Mexican national team, FC Barcelona, Chivas de Guadalajara, CONCACAF Champions League, Gold Cup, Women’s Professional Soccer, grassroots events, and SuperLiga and InterLiga (two tournaments featuring Mexican club teams), as well as the U.S. national team.

The Canadian Soccer Association last qualified for the World Cup in 1986, but adding the Canadian Soccer Federation to its portfolio still would deliver a modest bump to SUM’s bottom line. More than that, though, it would give the organization a property that appealed to all Canadian businesses. SUM could leverage that relationship to add MLS partners across Canada.

Sandra Gage, the Canadian Soccer Association’s director of business development, said the organization is in discussions with IMG and is weighing its options. She added, “Nothing has been decided at this point.”

SUM’s ambitions in Canada mirror similar efforts undertaken by the NBA and NHL. Both leagues have offices in Canada. The NHL operates its office directly and sells sponsorships to companies like The Home Depot and Hershey. NBA Canada sells the league’s rights in the Canadian market.

MLSE had proposed a similar arrangement with SUM after Toronto FC joined MLS in 2007. But the planned expansion to Vancouver in 2011 and Montreal in 2012 made the league decide it should operate a potential SUM Canada independently.

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