MLS’s official sponsors were more likely to be identified as such by the league’s fans, according to our 12th annual MLS Sponsor Breakthrough survey conducted for SBJ by Turnkey Intelligence. In fact, in seven of the 10 categories surveyed, MLS partners topped their nearest competitor by double digits.
Leading the way was fourth-year sponsor Coca-Cola, which was recognized by half of the fans in the study. That’s 11 percentage points higher than Pepsi received in its 19 years as the league’s official soda. Coke gained exposure as a sponsor of Atlanta United, last season’s league champion, and the brand’s six percentage point improvement over 2017 also may have been bolstered by its significant presence as a major sponsor of last summer’s FIFA World Cup.
Recognition compared to 2017
+2% points: Audi — Partnership must be working as the carmaker signed on for four more years.
+2% points: Etihad Airways — Contract extension includes title sponsorship of MLS Flight Path.
-4% points: AT&T — Despite the drop, still holds a massive lead over its rivals.
-3% points: Allstate — A partner since 2011, this was the brand’s third straight decline.
Other notable findings from the data:
■ Heineken replaced one of the league’s founding partners in 2015. Thirty-seven percent of the fans knew that the brewer makes the league’s official beer, 4 percentage points higher than 2017. Budweiser, Heineken’s predecessor, generated a 38 percent awareness level in 2012, its highest level in our annual study.
■ Wells Fargo enjoyed an eight percentage point increase in awareness, following its first full season as presenting sponsor of the new MLS Works Community MVP contest and a digital content series focused on MLS fans. The bank signed a four-year extension in 2017 that also expanded its activation in the U.S. with the Mexican National team.
Turnkey draws from its database of more than 400 ads to analyze the impact of creative spots running on MLS and other major league programming.
Continental Tire, “CELEBRATING SOCCER: CLINT DEMPSEY”
Grade: 7 (good)
The Seattle Sounders’ Clint Dempsey expresses appreciation for his parents and their willingness to drive him three hours from Nacogdoches, Texas, to club soccer practice in Dallas when he was young. The approach resonated well with fans from a likability perspective, but the modest Continental brand presence resulted in relatively lower branding scores, according to Turnkey. The spot aired on TV only 18 times during the season but generated more than 125,000 online views, according to iSpot.tv.
Audi, “A NEW FORM OF SOCCER INTELLIGENCE”
Grade: 9 (excellent)
Fast-paced and MLS highlights-driven, the ad, which spotlights the brand’s Player Index statistics app, earned a strong likability score among fans. The MediaCom-created spot touts Audi as being a leader in technology and innovation and features MLS players Graham Zusi and Diego Valeri.