SBJ/Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2013/Franchises

Real Salt Lake signs one of top MLS jersey deals

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In a deal completed in just over a month, MLS’s Real Salt Lake has signed LifeVantage as its new jersey sponsor.

While Salt Lake City is one the smallest markets in MLS, the deal is one of the league’s largest, as MLS sources put it at $30 million over 10 years. That’s about $1.3 million more per year than the team’s stadium naming-rights deal and three times more per year than what was being paid by XanGo, its jersey sponsor since 2005.

LifeVantage will replace XanGo on Real Salt Lake jerseys.
Photo by: SCOTT MCGUIRE
LifeVantage becomes the latest “nutraceutical” marketer to align itself with MLS. Herbalife has been on Los Angeles Galaxy shirts since 2007, and its most recent deal was a league-high $44 million over 10 years. In addition, AdvoCare has been on FC Dallas kits since last season.

The LifeVantage-emblazoned jerseys will be on the field starting next season and get the advantage of a uniform redesign from Adidas. With a sales network of independent distributors, LifeVantage plans to leverage this deal wherever RSL plays.

“From day one, this one was anything but a local deal,” said Doug Robinson, LifeVantage president and CEO.

While this is LifeVantage’s first sports marketing expenditure, Robinson said that as head of a Utah-based company he had been curious about Real Salt Lake’s jersey deal for more than a year. In July, LifeVantage Vice President Josh Dunn met with Real Salt Lake’s Andy Carroll, vice president of corporate sales, who recalls casually mentioning that at the top of the price list was a jersey deal. “But I said that to a lot of companies,” Carroll recalled.

When traveling in New Jersey in August, Robinson was at a TGI Friday’s when a telecast of the Portland and Real Salt Lake match attracted a howling crow of more than 50 people for a game 3,000 miles away. His interest was piqued. “LifeVantage sells primarily through a multilevel distribution network, so we knew we needed to get the brand out there as much as possible,” he said.

Still, by the time LifeVantage got serious, Real Salt Lake President Bill Manning had two offers on his desk. “We weren’t so much a dark horse; we weren’t even in the horse race,” Robinson said.

Manning scheduled a meeting for Sept. 13 at a restaurant in Sandy, Utah, far more upscale than his usual “dive.” Upon sitting down, one of the first topics discussed was how each man would have rather been at Johanna’s, the local dive. With that as a bonding agent, there was a basis for cooperation, if not a deal. Manning indicated that time was of the essence.

A formal presentation was made at Rio Tinto Stadium 10 days later, and a contract was being finalized by Sept. 27. On Oct. 1, MLS Commissioner Don Garber shared a suite at Rio Tinto with LifeVantage executives. The contract was in near-final stages a few days later, and the LifeVantage board approved the deal Oct. 5.

“We had to do a lot of [board] convincing,” Robinson said. “This was something we hadn’t done before. It was not inexpensive and it was long-term, but when they saw how Real Salt Lake is front-and-center in our global strategic plan, we were over the hump.”

The contract was signed at LifeVantage headquarters on Oct. 16. Two days later, the new jersey was displayed in front of 5,000 cheering distributors at a quarterly meeting in St. Louis.

Back in Utah, Manning recalled that his stadium deal with Rio Tinto was completed in 44 days. “I never thought we would do anything faster,” he said. Except this one, which took 34 days.

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