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Volume 21 No. 1
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CONCACAF Gold Cup leads summer soccer lineup for SUM

Last summer’s schedule featured Copa America Centenario.
Kathy Carter is calling 2017 “the summer of soccer Version 22.0.”

Recent years have seen a run-up of major soccer events, including the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Women’s World Cup and the 2016 Copa America Centenario. While this year doesn’t have any events of that caliber, Carter, president of MLS commercial arm Soccer United Marketing, thinks the summer will prove to be an important benchmark.

“It’s been a unique 18 months, with such great momentum for the sport,” she said. “So many folks are having conversations about soccer, and it’s definitely permeating into the corporate community.”

SUM, which represents MLS’s commercial rights in addition to those of the U.S. Soccer Federation and the Mexican national team’s U.S. tour, recently was selected by CONCACAF to market and service its worldwide sponsorship rights through 2021.

CONCACAF has the most active summer ahead of it among SUM’s portfolio outside of MLS, with the Gold Cup hosted across the U.S. in July. Both the U.S. and Mexican national teams will also play games this fall as part of 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Recently, CONCACAF signed partnerships with both Post Consumer Brands and Modelo to sponsor its events. Carter said that while there is a short runway to get more deals done ahead of the Gold Cup, the governing body’s efforts to provide transparency and modernize itself after previous scandals is being well-received by the corporate community.

Carter said SUM had more than 15 new deals across its entire portfolio entering the 2017 calendar year, while renewal rates for existing deals for the last two years have been more than 80 percent, which she said was a significant increase from previous deal cycles. She declined to comment on specific deals but said that, as a whole, sponsorship revenue has been steadily increasing.

More important, she said, there is a deeper investment from partners to create content around the properties, especially MLS. SUM has recently moved around its internal media group to push forward its digital and social assets and to work more closely with rights holders.

“Where we’re seeing the most benefit is the depth of connectivity,” she said. “It’s great if you’re spending dollars with us, but almost equally as important is to activate around those rights. Years ago, that was not the case, and now sponsors are really seeing value in doing that.” She pointed to MLS sponsors such as Audi, which launched a statistical analysis tracker last year.

MLS has 20 corporate partners, but Carter said there is still opportunity. In the quick-service restaurant category, Chipotle’s deal with MLS expired before this season. The league is also investigating technology partnerships, and Carter noted the increase in the strategic nature of partnerships in that category across sports in recent years.