Club has been in contact with some of the world’s largest corporations
D.C. United is in talks with at least six brands to replace Leidos as the club’s next kit sponsor when the current deal is up at the end of this season. United’s jerseys have been emblazoned with the name of the Virginia-based contractor for the last five years, but with the club playing in a new stadium and fielding an internationally recognized name in Wayne Rooney, they may be able to get significantly more money from a jersey sponsor.
The club has been in contact with some of the world’s largest corporations, including Amazon and United Airlines. The list also includes Qatar Airways, financial services firm Edward Jones, and local utility conglomerate WGL energy services. Consulting firm Guidehouse and UK accounting firm Deloitte have also been in the mix, as has ESPN+, Major League Soccer’s streaming partner.
After initially cooling on the idea of renewing their kit agreement with United, Leidos is also back in the fray, prodded back into the conversation by United’s expanding local and international presence.
The value of the club’s partnership with Leidos for the 2018 season was in the neighbourhood of $3 million, which puts it somewhere in the top third of the league. A source close to current negotiations says the club is looking to put a price tag of $5 million on the rights for 2019. Such a figure would give D.C. United a more lucrative deal than any other in MLS save the L.A. Galaxy, who are sponsored by Herbalife. Clubs like NYCFC and the Seattle Sounders have managed to approach it—Seattle’s deal with XBOX earns the club $4.1 million per year while New York City’s deal with Etihad Airways gets them an even $4 million.
Herbalife’s Kit Sponsorship of the Los Angeles Galaxy Is The Highest in MLS
The club is also exploring the idea of taking advantage of a new income stream. MLS will begin to allow teams to sell advertising space on the sleeves of their jerseys, space that a United official suggested the club values at anywhere between $500,000 to $1 million annually.
These changes represent a potentially massive improvement in income for United, who just last year were largely an afterthought in MLS. It’s hard to overstate the importance, from a visibility standpoint, of Audi Field and England legend Wayne Rooney on the club’s profile.
United recently partnered with a third party to perform a study of the visibility of their kits, a club official said on Wednesday. The findings revealed that, since the opening of the new stadium and Rooney’s signing, the number of “impressions” that the jersey makes—be it in person, online, on television, or otherwise—has increased fourfold.
That type of data, however conceptual it may be, could give the club leverage as it negotiates with potential kit sponsors and seeks other arrangements as well. Companies that come up short on a shirt deal could become “founding partners” of the club, a group that includes Heineken, which has partnered with United on the largest and most lucrative beer deal in the league, and Eagle Bank, which sponsors a large lounge and seating area at Audi Field and has its name prominently displayed on the side of the stadium.
Timing of New Agreement
Leidos’ agreement runs through December of this year and, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, United are looking to select a sponsor and have a deal largely in place by the end of October or early November at the latest.