SBJ/October 18-24, 2010/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLS, sponsors prep to make Cup ‘destination event’

With a week remaining in the 2010 regular season, Major League Soccer and its partners are making final preparations for the Nov. 21 MLS Cup championship in Toronto. As in previous years, the championship will cap off nearly a week of industry events, fan festivals and sponsor activation.

“This has become our destination event — people circle it in pen on the calendar,” said David Wright, MLS vice president of partnership marketing. “Partners are seeing it’s not just a great place to activate and drive value, but to meet with other key decision-makers to make additional business.”

Home Depot and Volkswagen are leading the charge at this year’s event. Home Depot is partnering with the local Boys and Girls Club to sponsor a local construction and refurbishing event on Nov. 18 and is conducting player appearances at locations around Toronto. Volkswagen is sponsoring the league MVP announcement on Nov. 19. The auto manufacturer also is using the MLS Cup to launch the 2011 Jetta and will have seven to nine cars on display at BMO Field.

EA Sports is promoting its “FIFA 2011” tournament for Toronto FC players — the champion wins $10,000 and an equal amount donated to charity. And Visa will reward its Infinite cardholders with behind-the-scenes tours and meet-and-greets with MLS players.

“What really makes sense is that [MLS] has expanded [MLS Cup] beyond just the weekend,” said Ben Freidson, manager of sports marketing for Volkswagen.

Freidson declined to comment on the value of Volkswagen’s activation but did say the amount was similar to 2009, when the MLS Cup was held in Seattle. At that event, Volkswagen organized a series of pickup soccer games with MLS players at public places around the city.

Last year’s event drew 40,011 fans to Qwest Field in Seattle. This year marks the championship’s first foray into Canada in its 15-year history. Tom Anselmi, chief operating officer of host club Toronto FC, said the game was included in the team’s season-ticket package — 17,000 of which have been sold — and that he expects all 21,800 seats to be filled by game day.
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