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Volume 23 No. 8
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MLS taps former WB exec for licensing

A consumer product shake-up at Major League Soccer sees the league hiring its first senior vice president of consumer products in Maribeth Towers, with plans to hire a handful of additional senior staffers in retail development and retail marketing.

Stu Crystal, the league’s consumer products vice president since 2000, now reports to Towers.

Like the recently installed interim CMO Howard Handler, Towers was a league consultant. Since 2009, she was a vice president with mobile marketing agency SolidMedia. Prior to that, she worked for Warner Bros. Consumer Products from 2001 to 2008, and she also worked in retail business development at Fox Family Worldwide/Saban.

Sales have grown since the 2008 Adidas deal.
“She has a diverse background in retail, entertainment and sports,” said Soccer United Marketing President Kathy Carter, “and while at Warner Bros. she worked with some of the big European [soccer] clubs. So she knows the landscape.”

With the influx of European “name” players like David Beckham and Thierry Henry to the league over the past several years, and the overarching Adidas license granted in 2008, MLS licensing has been growing at healthy double-digit rates and has nearly tripled over the past five years. However, Carter said there needed to be a capital investment in executive talent for MLS licensing to reach the proverbial next level.

“We will have an expanded focus, and integrate consumer products across as many of our marketing efforts as we can,” Carter said. “The business has grown, but we’d like to build a bigger business at our venues, within e-commerce, soccer-specialty channels and in big-box sporting good stores. We’re growing our fan base every year, so we want to grow our retail presence along with that.’’

Carter said she also sees additional opportunities in hard goods, lifestyle, women’s and kids products, and better servicing of hot markets. The coming season will see a bigger push behind the league’s game ball from Adidas to get it to more retailers.