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Volume 22 No. 35
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Sales, sponsorships build high expectations for LAFC

LAFC’s auspicious beginning extends to its business side. Expectations are that it will be one of MLS’s highest revenue-generating clubs right out of the gate. Consider that it has:


• Sold out all of its 32 suites, 49 loge boxes and 1,974 club seats at Banc of California Stadium last year, with those higher-end seats ranging from $105 to $588 per match.


• Nearly sold out of all season tickets, with more than 17,000 full-season ticket holders already for the 22,000-seat stadium. Prices range from roughly $384 to more than $1,800 for the full season.


• Landed a 15-year, $100 million stadium naming-rights deal with Banc of California, which at $6.7 million per year makes it one of MLS’s biggest, and even eclipses some deals signed in the other major professional sports.


• Signed an expansive partnership that will see YouTubeTV serve as the team’s jersey front sponsor. It will also have its local English-language broadcasts exclusively available on the platform, becoming one of the first professional sports teams in the world to shift its local broadcasts to a solely digital play. The deal with YouTubeTV is valued at more than $6 million a year, while most other MLS clubs receive $3 million to $4 million for their jersey sponsorship, and nominal sums for broadcast rights fees. The team has yet to strike a Spanish-language television deal, which it says will appear on a linear channel.


“It goes back to that pillar of trying to be new, next and forward thinking in everything we’re doing, and have this attitude of trying to be innovating and future-focused,” said LAFC President and co-owner Tom Penn. “The big question in media rights is how is this landscape going to change, and we always thought we might be one of the last to do the old-fashioned deal or have the chance to be the first to do one of these types of deals. It will be a challenge to execute our broadcast a little differently, but it’s also a unique opportunity.”


The club has signed deals with several other partners, including Delta, AeroMexico, Heineken and Toyota, and LAFC ranks near the top — if not the top — in terms of revenue across MLS in the categories it has signed deals thus far, according Penn and Jamie Guin, the club’s senior vice president of corporate sponsorships.


While building a stadium and a club in the heart of Los Angeles has attracted the attention of blue-chip brands across the world, the ownership group has been a crucial part of the club’s sponsorship success, Guin said.


“There’s a different level of creative thought and financial acumen with this ownership group that is priceless, and we’ve been extremely fortunate that they’re extremely accessible and have been alongside us every step of the way,” he said. “We’ve had the opportunity to have Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra with us in a partner prospect meeting — just think about how cool they are in the world of sports. It’s not just about tapping on them to tap on them, but to watch them really shine in a meeting and add a lot of value, for the folks in that room, it’s like providing an experience within itself. Moments like that still give me goose bumps.”

— Ian Thomas