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Volume 21 No. 34
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Fire puts out call to Navigate path to new jersey sponsor

Jerseys worn by Bastian Schweinsteiger and other Fire players have been sponsored by Valspar since 2015.
Photo: Getty Images

The Chicago Fire has hired Navigate Research to help it find its next jersey partner.

The club previously signed a three-year deal with paint company Valspar in 2015. Valspar was acquired in 2017 by Sherwin-Williams, which chose not to negotiate a new deal as its approach to sports sponsorship has shifted. That previous deal was valued around $3 million a year according to industry sources, which is roughly the league average in the jersey-front category across MLS.

Chicago Fire COO John Urban, who joined the club in January after more than two decades as a sports and entertainment executive at organizations such as Legends and Madison Square Garden, said that after Navigate did valuation work on the jersey sponsorship the club wanted to work with the Chicago-based agency in bringing what it views as a huge opportunity to the market amid an exciting moment for the club. In July, Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto acquired a 49 percent stake in the Fire.

Urban said the club and Navigate have already started talking to potential partners, adding that they’ve been speaking with companies in the Windy City as well as across North America and overseas.

He declined to comment further as negotiations are ongoing.

Jeff Nelson, president of Navigate Research, said that recent jersey sponsorship deals across MLS — such as the one that 2019 expansion club FC Cincinnati signed with Mercy Health valued at $5 million a year — have continued to raise the bar, a reflection of both the growth of the league and its clubs.

“A jersey sponsorship provides an incredible amount of exposure in your home market, but because the jersey travels as well, there is a huge amount of national and even global exposure as well,” Nelson said. Navigate, which specializes in research, consulting and partnership development in sports and entertainment, has previously provided valuation, consulting and sales support to 70 percent of MLS clubs on naming rights or jersey deals.

Urban declined to comment on what valuation the club would be seeking in a future deal but said the club views this as a “meaningful opportunity.”

“This is Chicago, and with the trajectory of the team and the league, we think this is a really dynamic time for this opportunity,” he said.