Target tweaks goals with MLS renewal
Target didn’t choose soccer; its customers did. Such has been the mantra from the brand’s marketing department since it became an official partner of Major League Soccer in 2017, a relationship that will continue through 2024 after a five-year renewal was announced last week.
“They’re investing with Major League Soccer, they’re investing in the youth space, they’re investing with our teams, and then they’re creating these grand slam activations for our fans,” said Jen Cramer, MLS senior vice president of partnership marketing. “That right there shows how big of a partner they are.”
The extension, which includes traditional league sponsorship assets, will also keep Target as the presenting partner for the All-Star Game, which Cramer called a “pillar event” for its continued relationship with the league. The company has sponsored each of the past three All-Star Games. Next year’s edition will be played at Banc of California Stadium, home of LAFC, and for the first time will feature the best players from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX.
The biggest difference with the renewal, Cramer said, is that Target will focus more on leveraging the partnership for its brand rather than incorporating some of its vendors that are not league partners, such as Energizer and Kimberly-Clark, into MLS programming and marketing. Though she couldn’t provide specifics yet, Cramer said that through the renewal Target is also strategizing how it might work with other key MLS partners to connect with guests at brick-and-mortar retail locations.
“This is about Target, Target, Target,” said Cramer, adding that its commitment to the property and sport as a whole is “all-encompassing,” from the league and its clubs to the grassroots youth level, which includes two separate national programs.
Target became LAFC’s official retailer last month, including a first-of-its-kind sleeve sponsorship as the league kicks off a four-year pilot program next season.
Tom Penn, the team’s president and owner, said the two parties flirted with each other for a kit sponsorship years ago but the brand decided to allocate their money toward Minnesota, becoming that club’s kit partner in 2017. At last year’s All-Star Game in Orlando, the conversation between Target and LAFC reignited, with Penn saying that Target’s level of commitment to the league and the sport — along with them being aware of LAFC’s progress on and off the pitch and the size of Los Angeles media market — finally made it a match. Penn acknowledged that LAFC receiving the All-Star Game solidified the agreement.
“Having that bull’s-eye on the sleeve will be a real add to our kit,” he said.
On a personal level, Penn said that Target’s longtime support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is an initiative he’s admired from afar. With the new relationship that begins in January 2020, he’s hoping they can help drive greater good locally.
“They have a heart,” he said of Target. “That matters to us.”