Stadium pays off for D.C. United
After spending 22 years as a tenant in RFK Stadium, D.C. United’s move into its own soccer-specific stadium this summer is proving to be a boon to the team’s sponsorship revenue.
“It’s been a massive game changer for us,” said Rob Hur, D.C. United vice president of corporate sponsorships. “Whether it’s been the attraction of the first new sports venue to open in Washington, D.C., in 12 years, the growth in MLS, the amazing fan base we have here with so many youth participants in the area or other factors — you put that all together and it’s been a perfect storm.”
Although its year-over-year revenue growth tied Toronto FC for best in the 23-team league last year, D.C. United’s sponsorship revenue ranked last in MLS, due to its limited ability to sell or control certain inventory at RFK as it neither owned nor operated the venue.
Now, after a slew of new deals tied to the energy around its move to Audi Field, it ranks ninth in the league in sponsorship revenue.
Its latest partnership is with Coca-Cola, a new three-year agreement that will give the company exclusivity in the soft drink, water and energy drink categories, and make its products available throughout Audi Field. Previously, the team had a one-year deal with Pepsi. While financial terms of the new arrangement were not disclosed, it provides D.C. United with a significant revenue increase over its previous deal, as well as an increase in the amount of in-market activation Coca-Cola will do around the club, Hur said.
The club’s naming-rights deal with Audi for the stadium, signed last February, has proven to be a bellwether. That deal, which runs at least 12 years, is valued at $4 million annually, making it the league’s second-largest naming-rights agreement behind LAFC’s deal with Banc of California, which is valued at roughly $6.67 million annually. Most naming-rights deals around the league are valued in the $2 million to $2.5 million range.
D.C. United hopes its next jersey sponsorship will be similarly impactful. Its current deal with government contractor Leidos is valued at $3 million annually but expires after this season, and the team will not be renewing it. Hur said the club is in talks with potential new partners and expects to increase its revenue from the jersey rights by at least 50 percent. D.C. United engaged Nielsen last year to value the rights, and felt its existing deal was undervalued. Hur said the club is still deciding if it will use an outside agency to aid its search for a new jersey sponsor.
D.C. United is also building a training facility and stadium for its USL team in northern Virginia’s Loudoun County, where Hur said the club is exploring naming rights and other sponsorship opportunities. The club is heavily focused on landing a partnership with an airline, as it is the only major professional team in the D.C. market without one.