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Volume 20 No. 46
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Plugged In: William White, VP of marketing, Target

In January, Target became one of the biggest supporters of soccer in the U.S., striking a series of sponsorships that allow it to touch every level of the sport in the country, from Major League Soccer down to youth teams. At MLS’s All-Star Game this week, Target will serve as the presenting sponsor, with its bull’s-eye logo on the jersey of the league’s stars. William White, vice president of marketing at Target who grew up playing the sport, outlined the retailer’s soccer investment.

  This is the largest team sport push that we’ve made as a company. But Target didn’t just decide to choose soccer; our guests chose soccer. We sold 1 million soccer balls last year, and we’re seeing even more growth this year.

Photo by: TARGET

Why soccer? The reason we got into soccer is because our guests, our shoppers, have chosen soccer. The sport today spans across cultures, across genders, across generations, and it’s both watched and played by families across the country. It’s not a surprise soccer is growing inside our stores. When we look at sports-related merchandise being sold, soccer-related gear is the fastest growing.

On Target’s strategy: We want to target a number of levels as we enter soccer. We are the official partner of MLS on a national level, the official jersey partner of our hometown team, Minnesota United, and at the grassroots level, we’re the official retailer of U.S. Youth Soccer. We’re aiming to bring the sponsorships to life not only at the national level but by also tapping into the passionate communities of fans and soccer players in markets across the country.

On vendor support: Getting into soccer was also something that was very meaningful for many of our key vendors, who are working with us in a number of ways. They are also very cognizant of who is now watching and playing soccer, and how it’s growing — they’ve eagerly embraced it with us. For example, we will be the presenting sponsor of the All-Star Game, Coca-Cola will be sponsoring the concert during the week, Energizer will be presenting the homegrown game, and Kimberly-Clark will be a part of the pregame celebration.

Why the All-Star Game? When we became an official partner of MLS, we looked at all of the ways we could bring the Target brand to life during the season, and we kept coming back to the All-Star Game as the moment we wanted to do that. It’s really become a celebration for the popularity and momentum of soccer, and we love the format of taking the best players in MLS and playing against a huge powerhouse team.

                                                                                                                               — Ian Thomas