SBJ/December 17-23, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

USA Swimming adds Arena as apparel partner

USA Swimming closed a new sponsorship with the swimwear company Arena, giving the organization its second apparel partner in more than two decades.

The eight-year agreement, which industry sources valued at more than $1 million a year, follows USA Swimming’s decision to break up its apparel category and begin selling non-exclusive licensing and sponsorship deals. Arena will become a non-exclusive sponsor of USA Swimming, title sponsor of six Grand Prix swimming events and the exclusive sponsor of the U.S. national team, which will wear Arena apparel on the pool deck and podium at USA Swimming events.

Rebecca Soni endorses Arena’s products.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Speedo was the national governing body’s exclusive apparel and swimwear partner from 1985 to 2012 and recently paid more than $1.5 million a year for that sponsorship. But USA Swimming last month renegotiated its agreement with Speedo, signing a non-exclusive deal valued at more than $600,000 with the swimwear company.

That deal combined with the Arena deal means that USA Swimming’s gamble to break up the category has helped it increase total revenue from the licensing and apparel category. It hopes to sign more swimwear deals and possibly sign a deal in the fashion and footwear categories similar to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s deals with Ralph Lauren and Nike, respectively.

“[The Arena sponsorship] really supports what we want to do in terms of raising the profile of the national team and our national team athletes,” said Matt Farrell, USA Swimming’s chief marketer. “They also have a vision for growing the sport at the grassroots level, and for us that was a great combination.”

Arena’s sponsorship comes two years after the private equity firm Riverside Co. acquired it and began pushing the brand to increase its market share in the U.S. The brand is the top swimming brand worldwide but trails Speedo in the U.S. market. It hopes the sponsorship with USA Swimming will help change that.

Olympic gold-medalist and world record-holder Rebecca Soni is the most high-profile U.S. swimmer currently on Arena’s roster of swimmers.

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