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Volume 21 No. 43
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Japanese firm buys rights to Red Bulls’ training kit, in-venue signage

The New York Red Bulls have reached terms on the largest partnership in club history, signing a deal with Japanese heavy equipment manufacturer Yanmar.

The multiyear deal is valued at seven figures annually, according to a source familiar with the agreement. The deal is expected to be announced before the Red Bulls’ home opener on Sunday.

Yanmar’s logo will appear on both sleeves of the Red Bulls’ training kit.
Both the Red Bulls and Yanmar declined to comment on terms of the deal.

For the Red Bulls, the deal marks two firsts for the team: the first time a partner’s logo will appear on its training kit, and the first time a partner will have permanent in-stadium signage. Yanmar’s logo will be on both sleeves of the team’s training kit, and signage will appear in Red Bull Arena’s lower bowl.

New York Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpre said that in the past, the club had been very strict with what it would do with in-stadium partner branding and signage, but now it’s looking to “push the limits.” The team is a subsidiary of Red Bull, with the energy drink’s brand featured on both the front of the club’s match jersey and at its stadium.

“For us, our partnership business is very different than any other club in MLS,” he said. “But in recent months, we’ve taken a different approach.”

The Red Bulls become the second MLS team to have a sponsor logo on its training kit that’s different than its match kit sponsor. In December, Portland signed a deal with online financial services company Simple that included branding on the team’s training kit. Portland’s jersey sponsor is Alaska Airlines.

The New York deal makes Yanmar the official agricultural machinery, marine, diesel engine and utility vehicle provider of the Red Bulls. De Grandpre said these are all new categories for the team. Yanmar also will have private skybox access with the deal, along with a digital and broadcast presence throughout the season. The company is working on a local TV spot for MSG, the Red Bulls’ regional television home.

De Grandpre said representatives of the team and Yanmar met last July after an introduction from New York-based LeadOff Sports Marketing, which had been contacted by Yanmar and its advertising firm Dentsu. Both Yanmar and Red Bull had been sponsors of Oracle Team USA during the 2013 America’s Cup.

For Yanmar, the deal is part of the company’s effort to expand its brand in North America. In the first half of its 2014 fiscal year, the company reported net sales of $2.6 billion, with 45 percent of that coming from outside of Japan. That’s up from a reported 38 percent in its 2013 fiscal year.

While the New York deal marks Yanmar’s first step into the U.S. pro sports market, it’s not its first effort in soccer. The company has been a global sponsor of Manchester United since 2012 and it owns the club Cerezo Osaka in Japan’s J League, said Ken Araki, a Yanmar representative.

“We are excited to be working with the Red Bulls and with a growing league in MLS,” said Araki through a translator.