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How Wayne Rooney Added Millions of Additional Brand Value for D.C. United and MLS

Since Wayne Rooney joined D.C. United during the MLS season, the team garnered millions in new brand value, setting the team up well for the future.

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Major League Soccer’s D.C. United brought in a gold mine when the team signed English soccer legend Wayne Rooney.

According to the company GumGum Sports, the first four months of Rooney in the team’s uniform generated $4.5 million in social media value for jersey sponsor Leidos. That sum was a massive increase over the $130,000 value from the time prior to his signing.

D.C. United is one of GumGum’s clients. GumGum Sports uses computer vision to help rights holders, sponsors, and agencies measure the media value of their sponsorships across TV, streaming and social media. The company is also helping transform an industry previously relying on text and traditional broadcasts to value sponsorship, said Jeff Katz, VP of strategy and strategic partnerships at GumGum.

“They were missing social media, an emerging channel in how sports — even highlights — are shared across thousands of accounts,” Katz said. “There’s massive amounts of value coming in not just from accounts owned by teams or leagues, but out in the wild of social media.”

Rooney was a vital component in D.C. United’s season on the field. In the 14 games prior to his arrival, the team won two games and amassed 11 points. In the 17 games following his stateside arrival, D.C. United won 10 games and garnered 33 points with a +13 goal differential.

READ MORE: NLL Points to MLS as Benchmark for What League Could Become

Those games had some major moments for Rooney, generating much of the added value for the organization.

“Wayne Rooney’s not just a name. His play was huge,” Katz said. “The fact that he performed so well is a big deal as well, from a media value perspective. Because of his fame and social media presence, when he does something exciting, it raises D.C. United’s profile, influence and benefit.”

The June 28 signing announcement generated 3.7 million social engagements, driving a $1.7 million media value for D.C. United partners.

In August, the viral moment of Rooney making a game-saving tackle and then taking the ball the length of the field to score the 96th-minute game-winner resulted in $1.6 million in media value and 11.4 million engagements.

In a September game against Atlanta United, Rooney tied up the game on a penalty kick and then assisted on Luciano Acosta’s two goals later in the 3-1 win. The game drove $1.3 million in media value and 2.4 million engagements.

Increasingly, athletes providing major success on the field are also contributing mightily to the organization’s value. The increase in the brand’s brand value could certainly come in handy when it’s time to sign new deals, like its jersey deal.

Leidos signed the current three-year deal in 2016. With this new information, Katz said D.C. United is well positioned to demonstrate the increased value of its kit sponsorship moving forward. The Athletic reported in October the team was negotiating with Amazon, Qatar Airways, United Airlines and others for the deal in what could be one of the league’s most lucrative. The story reported the current deal is in the realm of $3 million. The next could be worth north of $5 million.

“These valuations help reframe how they see their assets,” he said. “With all the earned media value, the asset is even more so tremendously valuable.”

One worry of having a team relying so heavily on one player for driving media value is the drastic drop if they leave. Katz said the hope, at least for D.C. United, would be Rooney staying long enough to raise the league, team and teammate values enough to insulate it from Rooney’s eventual departure.

“There are a lot of things they can do now to leverage this increased exposure, and continue to drive value,” Katz said. “D.C. United highlight clips getting shared across social media helps the entire organization attract all sorts of attention. By the time in the long distant future when he leaves, they’ve already diversified where the value comes from.”

READ MORE: Superstars Help Showcase Importance of Social Media Value for Teams

It isn’t just D.C. United gaining value from Rooney’s presence, Katz said. The entire Major League Soccer brand does as well, as Rooney’s play makes its viral way across the internet. He also believes the league has received similar brand-value boosts when other international stars arrived — like David Beckham.

“MLS has a real opportunity to capitalize on acquisitions of top talent, drawing more attention and increasing their ability to generate and foster talent internally,” he said. “It’s more attention to build and develop their own stars’ social footprints and value.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesport.com.

Sponsorship

Teams and Leagues Cozy Up to CBD Brands

The sports world is beginning to bring CBD companies into the fold, marking a significant milestone for the CBD industry.

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Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

As teams and leagues look for emerging partner opportunities, CBD brands are showcasing that they aren’t afraid to spend when it comes to sports partnerships. 

While not really a thought in the minds of professionals more than a year ago, CBD presents both a revenue opportunity and an interesting challenge for teams and leagues.

How did this happen?

Before the enactment of the new nationwide 2018 Farm Bill. there wasn’t much mainstream conversation around CBD. Since then, the category has exploded across both retail and sports.

When the bill passed, it legalized industrial hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list and allowing tribes, states, and territories to establish regulatory structures within their boundaries that allow farmers and ranchers to produce a high-value cash crop while retaining federal farm program benefits that were previously not allowed.

Teams and leagues are starting to find interest…

Just this past week, the Portland Pickles became the first baseball team with a CBD partner.

Before that, the Big3 signed a deal with cbdMD that made the brand the official CBD partner of the upstart basketball league. 

And, ahead of this weekend’s Indianapolis 500, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced its partnership with DEFY – a CBD-based sports performance drink.

The only problem with this partnership is that the drivers of the car can’t drink the drink due to the fact that CBD is on IndyCar’s banned substance list

Who’s sponsoring what?

Below you will find a list of some of the CBD and cannabis-related partnerships that have been signed recently.

Las Vegas Lights / NuWu Cannabis Marketplace

Big3 / cbdMD

Portland Pickles / Lazarus Naturals

Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports / DEFY

Jonathan Byrd’s Racing / Liquid Gold Processing

RC Enerson / Craft 1861

It’s not just teams and leagues…

While the bigger deals might get more attention, CBD companies have also struck deals with athletes. 

For example, Bubba Watson has a deal with cbdMD, the same brand that is sponsoring the Big3.

Before Watson, Scott McCarron signed an endorsement deal with Functional Remedies, a hemp manufacturing company.

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Are NFL Jersey Ads Next?

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May 15, 2019; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki (44) runs a drill during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

Jersey ads aren’t an unfamiliar sight at NFL practices. Brands like Lecom and Hyundai are visible on the practice jerseys of the Browns and Cardinals respectively.

The one place jersey ads haven’t shown up is in regular season games. 

Could that be changing anytime soon?

Speaking with SI, an NFL spokesman said, “Never say never, but there are no current plans to pursue or explore.”

With what SI estimates to be $224 million in revenue being left on the table by not having patches on the jerseys, why would the league not consider it? 

According to those inside the industry, the NFL is concerned about conflicts of interest between teams who may have patches of competitors of current partners for opposing teams.   

The NBA has found success…

The NBA launched its jersey patch program in 2017 and as of March of 2019, every team in the league found themselves with a patch on their jersey. 

According to Terry Lefton and John Lombardo of SBJ, the patch program has generated more than $150 million for the league.

Another important stat is that of the 30 team patch sponsors, 20 are doing business with NBA teams for the first time.

At this point, not having ads is more unusual…

Even MLB, considered the most traditional of sports leagues in the U.S., has experimented with sponsor patches since 2000. Of the major sports leagues in the U.S., here’s a look at which ones have ads on their game jerseys and which ones don’t. 

NBA: Yes

WNBA: Yes

MLS: Yes

NHL: No 

NFL: No

MLB: Yes (for special occasion games only – Mexico Series etc)

Internationally, teams are cashing in…

While soccer is somewhat different in that the advertising is not just a patch, but the primary part of a team’s uniform, the revenue potential can’t be argued. Here’s a look at what just five brands are paying international clubs, according to The 18.

Emirates / Real Madrid: $80 million per year 

Chevy / Man U: $68 million per year

Rakuten / Barcelona: $60 million per year

Emirates / Arsenal: $56 million per year

Yokohama / Chelsea: $51 million per year

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CohnReznick Sponsors a Dive Inside the Business of Baseball

Accounting firm CohnReznick shows the business of baseball in two video series with MLB, “Business of Baseball” and “Front Office Focus.”

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Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports

Accounting firm CohnReznick is taking an authentic approach to its MLB sponsorship. Through a video series called Business of Baseball and Front Office Focus, CohnReznick lends its name to an inside look at professional baseball. The series is produced by MLB Network, where it airs, along with, MLB.com and CohnReznick’s website.

MLB confirmed CohnReznick as a sponsor of the video series to FOS. The two parties collaborate on ideas, but MLB declined to speak on the sponsorship further.

“Our team really wanted something that was authentic, not just a way to slap our name onto something, but to own something,” says Frank Longobardi, CEO, CohnReznick. “We are able to align some of our core values with what’s being talked about in Business of Baseball and Front Office Focus. That makes us feel good, as we felt we could drive content and value with our strengths.”

READ MORE: MLB Flies Under the Radar With Sponsor Patches

While service-oriented companies have sponsored sports for decades, it’s becoming more common for non-consumer brands to find ways to cut through the clutter,” says Joe Favorito, a sports marketing and communications consultant.

“These companies are tying to something that resonates,” Favorito says. “Consumers have millions of choices. If it comes down to personal choice, they remember the company for who their spokesperson is or the story being told.”

The Business of Baseball series launched during December’s Baseball Winter Meetings, where CohnReznick was the presenting sponsor of the meetings for MLB Network. Over the course of the video sponsorship, there will be approximately six Business of Baseball videos and up to 35 Front Office Focus clips through the season.

“They’re topics, like hospitality and security, that are the same types of things we deal with our clients,” Longobardi says. “We wanted to show similarities of how Major League teams go through some of the same things our clients go through.”

Each of the videos feature commentators and baseball executives. Front Office Focus highlights discussions with executives from the league’s 30 teams about issues ranging from team strategies to club operations, while Business of Baseball looks into how franchises transform the game through analytics and management, but also how they redefine the fan experience.

A recent episode, “The Business of Food,” featured a look at how food experiences now play into a fan’s trip to a ballpark., like a sit-down interview with Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer by CohnReznick Managing Partner Cindy McLoughlin talking about how the game day experience has evolved to include a culinary aspect. The restaurant industry is evolving inside and outside the ballpark.

“When you look at stadiums and games, it’s not just about baseball anymore,” McLoughlin says. “Fans expect an overall experience. People get to stadiums to stand in line, they need to get their Shack Burger.

“That led us to Danny Meyer to really peel back why it’s a benefit to him and how those synergies line up.”

The video topics originated in a brainstorming session featuring CohnReznick’s team and  MLB. The topics center around issues with innovation and analytics to elevate customer experience and retain loyalty. From these conversations, MLB could consider matching a team with a relevant topic.

“It puts us front and center with a really good brand,” Longobardi says of the partnership. “In any business, you want to align yourself with good organizations, and this relationship does that well and connects the right type of people we’re trying to attract, the C-Suite individuals to middle market to small public companies.”

READ MORE: The MLBPA Has Embraced Athlete-Driven Marketing

The sponsorship has allowed CohnReznick to provide clients, potential clients and employees with strong relationship building opportunities at games and events.

“It really has allowed us to spend some time with key clients and be able to spend quality time with our employees and enjoy ourselves,” Longobardi says. “We can more closely align MLB brand with our clients and our staff, and that makes it a unique experience.”

By tying in with behind the scenes content, CohnReznick hopes to resonate with clients beyond just a name on the screen.

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