Sounders Hire WME-IMG To Secure Sponsor For Jersey, Matchday Pitch, Training Facility
The Sounders have engaged WME-IMG to assist it in securing a title sponsor for a package that includes the club's jersey sponsorship, matchday pitch and naming rights to its training facility. The club's deal with Microsoft's Xbox expires after the ’18 season. Xbox has been the team's jersey sponsor since the Sounders' inaugural MLS season in '09. The game console brand also holds the matchday pitch rights. It is the first time that WME-IMG has worked on a naming-rights partnership with an MLS club, and its global partnerships division will lead the efforts. Sounders Principal Owner Adrian Hanauer said the partnership was born out of previous relationships that the ownership group has had with WME-IMG, as well as a desire to see if there is interest from foreign corporations. The club currently does not have a heavy international reach within its sponsorship portfolio. Hanauer also cited recent revenue evaluations for NBA jersey patches, noting that the Sounders, who have led MLS in attendance in each of its nine seasons and have one of the highest local TV ratings across the league, has "made us wonder if there is gigantic upside for these rights for our club." Recently, WME-IMG helped the Celtics secure a deal with GE for its jersey patch.
SEEKING THE RIGHT PARTNER: The package of rights, which are the club’s three most valuable assets as it does not control its stadium naming rights at CenturyLink Field, could be valued at more than eight figures, said Hanauer. He also noted that the club would be very interested in the level of activation of any potential partner, and is more interested in finding a partner that shares its vision for the club as opposed to strictly the highest revenue-generating deal. Sounders COO Bart Wiley said that the club would be open to selling the package of rights to one individual partner, or splitting the rights among three partners. WME-IMG is currently performing a valuation of the package, and is expected to go to market soon. While there is no deadline to strike a deal with a new partner as Xbox’s deal runs through next season, WME-IMG and the Sounders will likely aim to conclude a deal by the spring ahead of the design process for its jerseys for the '19 season. Both Hanauer and Wiley noted that the club is open to a new deal with Xbox as well, and has been in discussions with Microsoft. The club had previously hired CAA Sports to explore the marketplace for its jersey sponsorship in '12, after which it signed an extension with Xbox. "As we approach our tenth season in MLS, we feel the landscape has dramatically changed for both the league and our club these last ten years, so this is the right time to take a fresh look at the value of our top assets,” Wiley said.