SBJ/October 15-21, 2012/Franchises

Sporting KC retools sponsorship department, aims for jersey deal

Sporting Kansas City has consistent sellouts and a team capable of contending for the MLS Cup when the playoffs begin early next month, but the hard work is only beginning in the front office. The club’s corporate partnerships department has just been given an overhaul, with the goal being the acquisition of the first revenue-generating jersey sponsorship deal in Sporting KC’s 16-year history.

Sporting KC regularly sells out its games but is looking to bolster corporate partnerships.
Photo by: BRIAN DAVIDSON / SPORTING KANSAS CITY
“We have to continue to grow the commercial side of our business,” said Robb Heineman, the CEO of Sporting Club, the parent company of Sporting Kansas City.

To that end, Heineman recently promoted 29-year-old Jake Reid from vice president of sales to chief revenue officer. Last week, Reid brought on Jamie Guin — a longtime sponsorship executive with the New Orleans Hornets — as Sporting KC’s new vice president of corporate partnerships. Reid will work with Guin to hire at least three more corporate sales staffers by the end of October.

Heineman said Reid’s promotion “speaks to the opportunities this organization provides to young and talented people,” but it is also a call to action for the club. When Sporting KC, as expected, has a capacity crowd for its Oct. 24 regular-season finale against Philadelphia, it will have sold out 16 of its 17 games this season at Livestrong Sporting Park. (The only game not sold out was on a cold and rainy night in late March). In its second year at the 18,467-seat Livestrong, Sporting KC has sold standing-room tickets to reach an average attendance of 19,403 this season.

Sporting KC leads MLS in season-ticket renewals (86 percent) and new season-ticket sales (more than 1,000 as of last week) for the 2013 season. In addition, all 34 suites at Livestrong are sold and under contract through at least 2013.

Despite the success at the box office, the lack of a jersey sponsor is a big hole in Sporting KC’s potential revenue streams. Sporting KC is one of only three MLS teams, along with the Colorado Rapids and San Jose Earthquakes, without a jersey sponsor. According to Reid, the valuation of a jersey sponsorship deal for his club is $2.5 million annually. Sporting KC hopes to sign a deal for a minimum of three years.

“We view this as a long-term play, and we’re looking for a marquee partner,” said Reid, who added that the club will keep its search in-house instead of using an agency. “We’re getting closer. The success of our team on the pitch and at the gate certainly helps.”

Heineman said there are four years left on the deal signed in 2011 with Lance Armstrong’s charity, Livestrong, for the naming rights to the stadium. Livestrong does not pay a fee, and the soccer club donates a portion of ticket sales proceeds to the charity. Although the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released its doping file on Armstrong last week, the Sporting Club will continue to honor its commitment to the former Tour de France champion.

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