SBJ/March 3-9, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Unilever signs to sponsor U.S. soccer teams

Unilever has signed a two-year deal with Soccer United Marketing for sponsorship of U.S. Soccer’s men’s and women’s national teams. The deal, which an industry source said is for $2 million a year, gives Degree, Unilever’s antiperspirant brand, the designation “official deodorant of U.S. Soccer.”

Clint Dempsey will become Degree’s lead soccer endorser in the U.S.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Among the activation plans is a series of documentary shorts, directed by “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm, on U.S. men’s national team forward Clint Dempsey.

Along with Landon Donovan, Dempsey is widely viewed as one of the faces of American soccer. His signing by the Seattle Sounders last summer, after six seasons in the English Premier League, was much touted by MLS. The heavily tattooed Dempsey also is popular with fans for being outspoken and for his passion for hip-hop music.

“Dempsey has been called ‘American soccer’s nonconformist,’ and we love that,” said Ryu Yokoi, Unilever senior brand manager. “He’s a captain and he speaks his mind. We found out that Jon Hamm was a big Clint Dempsey and U.S. Soccer fan, so he became a natural to work on these films for us.”

Dempsey has signed a personal services agreement with Degree and will become the product’s lead soccer endorser in the United States. The video profiles on Dempsey that Hamm creates will be similar to ones that musician John Legend has directed on Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry for Degree’s basketball campaign. Like the Curry spots, Hamm’s films on Dempsey will be posted on the company’s digital platforms and on YouTube.

Last week, upon completion of the deal with SUM, Degree launched DegreeSoccer.com, with Dempsey featured prominently under the deodorant’s slogan, “Do: More.” The only other element to the new site currently is a sweepstakes through which customers can win a trip to Brazil to see the U.S. men’s national team compete in this summer’s World Cup.

During the World Cup, Degree plans to sponsor a daily video diary at DegreeSoccer.com on the American Outlaws (the large band of soccer fans who travel across the globe to attend the U.S. team’s matches) as they make their way around Brazil for the U.S. matches there.

Fan Jon Hamm will direct documentary shorts on Clint Dempsey.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Degree is making what a source termed a “significant” media buy of television spots for ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup and U.S. Soccer coverage on NBC and NBCSN. It also is producing branded U.S. and Mexican national team deodorant sticks and is planning point-of-sale promotions with retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Target and Costco.

Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s commercial arm, represents both U.S. Soccer and the Mexican national team, among other properties. In 2009, Degree entered into a partnership with SUM to become the official antiperspirant and deodorant of the Mexican team. That sponsorship is still in effect. Degree also is a sponsor of MLS clubs Los Angeles Galaxy and FC Dallas.

“This deal is truly an extension of the partnership that SUM has established with Degree and Unilever over the last five years,” said David Wright, senior vice president of global sponsorship for MLS and SUM. “Degree is known for being progressive in their marketing, and you’re going to see that with its promotion of U.S. Soccer around the World Cup.”

Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing, the Illinois-based company founded by former Chicago Fire CEO and Octagon executive John Guppy, worked on behalf of Degree on the deal.

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