Minnesota’s pro teams are finding a new source of income by placing ads on uniforms

The NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers announced in September that Bibigo, a South Korean grocery brand, had become the team’s new shirt sponsor. The deal is said to be worth more than $ 100 million over five years.

Typically, companies spend this amount of money on arena or stadium naming rights, not three-inch patches on player uniforms.

While NASCAR drivers have worn sponsor logos on their uniforms for decades, the concept of teams using player uniforms as advertising space is fairly new and is gaining ground in major professional sports leagues in the United States.

Both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Wild announced partnership agreements for the placement of jersey and helmet ads in the fall. Die Wilden make inquiries about shirt sponsors.

“We have already contacted each other unsolicited, so we know the demand is there,” said Carin Anderson, senior vice president of corporate partnerships and retail management, Minnesota Wild. “It opens up a whole new opportunity for us on an unprecedented level as it is a marquee asset.”

Minnesota United has had a contract with Target Corp. since entering Major League Soccer in 2017. closed on jersey sponsorship, said Bryant Pfeiffer, the team’s chief revenue officer.

However, some of the biggest leagues in the US have been slow to adopt this form of advertising. Major League Baseball has not approved helmet or jersey advertising, so the twins cannot venture into jersey or helmet deals.

The NFL does not yet allow teams to sell jersey patches or helmet stickers for jerseys on matchday. Teams can, however, sell ads for training jerseys.

Training House – an athletic training and rehabilitation facility and service run by Twin Cities Orthopedics, the sponsor of the Vikings’ training facility – became the team’s training kit partner in 2021.

European soccer teams have been using shirt sponsorship for more than 20 years. The 2020-2021 European football season brought in nearly $ 1.6 billion in sponsorship revenue, said Jon Stainer of Nielsen Sports, the New York-based sports news company.

The Timberwolves announced a multi-year partnership with Aura, a consumer digital security provider, this fall, while Wild announced that existing partner Twin Cities Toyota Dealers has become a multi-year exclusive partner for helmet ad placement.

The terms of both deals were not disclosed. However, according to Navigate, a Chicago-based sports and entertainment consultancy, NBA jersey patch deals are marketed in the $ 5 million to $ 20 million range, and helmet placement deals range from $ 1 million to $ 10 million in the NHL U.S. dollar.

Over the 2020-2021 regular seasons, sponsor rankings accounted for 3.1% of media value for the Wild, roughly the league average, and 16.6% for Minnesota United, just below the average for teams that play in Major League Soccer.

Since 2017, the NBA has allowed teams to sell advertising badges on the left shoulder of team jerseys. The WNBA meanwhile has partner branding on jerseys since 2011. Mayo Clinic has been the Marquee Presenting Sponsor of the Minnesota Lynx jersey since 2014, while Atlanta-based digital health company Sharecare has been the jersey patch partner since 2019.

The NBA’s patch program has raised over $ 150 million since 2017, according to industry reports.

Nielsen’s Sport24 data for the Timberwolves was not available as the team did not have a kit patch for the 2020-2021 season. Fitbit, the Google-owned electronics and fitness company, reportedly paid $ 3 million a year to become the Timberwolves’ first exclusive jersey patch partner, according to SportsPro Media. The 2019-20 season was the final year of the Fitbit partnership.

Aura is not only the official jersey partner of the Timberwolves, but also the official digital security provider for the Timberwolves and bears the title of Season Presentation Partner and signage in the arena and on the pitch.

“They are going to go anywhere, home or away. Fans in other markets, either in the arena or at home, will be exposed to these brands,” said Ryan Tanke, chief operating officer of Timberwolves.

Aura’s name will also be featured on the shirts of T-Wolves Gaming players, the Wolves’ esports NBA 2K franchise, marking the first time the gaming franchise has a shirt sponsor, Tanke said.

The 2020 NHL allowed teams to sell ad placements on helmets so brand partners could recoup some of their investment with teams playing in empty arenas due to COVID. According to Sportico, these placements generated $ 100 million in revenue for the NHL teams.

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, the owner of the naming rights to the Wilds’ home arena in St. Paul, was the first to have a Wild Helmet sticker under this pilot. The league expanded the helmet program and the Wild closed the deal with Twin Cities Toyota Dealers.

“As a brand, having the opportunity to embed yourself in the likeness of the player is a unique opportunity and connects you with the high-performance athlete that consumers look for during the game,” said Anderson von Wild.

In late 2021, the NHL board of directors approved the sale of promotional patches on player jerseys for the 2022/23 season. The official team jersey on sale at the Wild Store in the Xcel Energy Arena will have the new jersey patch, Anderson said.

Starting with the 2020 season, the MLS allowed teams to sell patches on the sleeve of a jersey as well as on the front. Minnesota United is in talks with some companies to sell jersey-sleeve ad placement, said Pfeiffer, chief revenue officer.

Placing ads on soccer jerseys has the potential to generate significant revenue for Minnesota United, Pfeiffer said. It also allows the football club to partner with emerging categories of tech companies that have skyrocketed during the pandemic.

While it doesn’t provide the same level of attention as matchday uniforms for NBA, NHL, and MLS players, corporate identities on NFL practice jerseys get widespread attention during training camps that attract thousands of fans and are widely featured in the media.

And with more than 90 players recorded and photographed at the training camp, the corporate identity on these jerseys attracts significant attention, said John Penhollow, Vikings chief revenue officer.

“When all is said and done, it can lead to quite a lot of exposure for them,” Penhollow said.

The training house patch on the Vikings training jersey will remain in place during the regular season, Penhollow said.

If the NFL allows patches on match day jerseys or helmet stickers, it will change sports marketing deals significantly, said Stainer of Nielson Sports.

Kim Sovell, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, says the new revenue stream could be included in future equations that determine how teams are rated.

In early 2021, the Vikings’ value rose 14% year over year to $ 3.35 billion, according to Forbes. The value of the Timberwolves rose 2% to $ 1.4 billion and the value of the savages increased 35% to $ 675 million. Minnesota United was valued at $ 520 million, up from $ 300 million in 2019, according to Sportico.

Given the revenue opportunities from jersey patch and helmet sticker placement, such partnerships will be commonplace in American professional sport, said Sovell, who compared such placements to online banner ads.

“We may not necessarily be aware of the logo helmet or jersey patch, but it’s starting to become familiar with anyone whose subconscious sees it,” she said.


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