MLS Sponsorship Guidelines

New Changes Effective Wednesday June 26, 2019.

Major League Soccer has drastically changed its commercial sponsorship guidelines. The move would allow the 26 clubs to secure jersey and stadium naming rights for sponsorships from alcohol and sports betting companies.

“We want to be viewed as a progressive league, and provide our clubs with an appropriate level of flexibility,” Carter Ladd, the league’s senior Vice President of Business Development, was quoted as saying. “We don’t want to be restrictive; we want to enable them in a positive way, and that’s why we’re taking this action… We strongly believe this is going to help drive new revenues.”

Types of Sports Betting-Related Activities That Are Permitted By The League’s New Rules:

For Sponsors:

  • 1. To ability to advertise in MLS stadiums and strike digital advertising agreements with clubs;
  • 2. Use clubs’ marks and logos in their advertising;
  • 3. Deploy “call-to-action” advertising encouraging legal-age fans to bet on MLS games; and
  • 4. Buy advertising spots during MLS game broadcasts.

For Clubs:

  • 1. Are permitted to create “ancillary programming around sports betting,” such as shows that discuss betting odds, and include league footage in those programs.
  • 2. Are permitted to establish in-stadium sports betting facilities, in connection with licensed gambling operators, in jurisdictions that permit such establishments.

In Washington, D.C.—where MLS club D.C. United recently opened its brand new Audi Field—Ted Leonsis, who owns the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals, plans to open such a facility within Capital One Arena, the downtown venue shared by both of his teams.

“Right now, we want to take advantage of the widespread legalization of sports betting in the U.S.,” Ladd said, adding that the league will “pursue best practices to protect the integrity of the game.”

On MLS’s more accommodating stance toward spirits, Ladd pointed to data indicating that Americans’ tastes are drifting more toward liquor, which has steadily been taking market share from beer and wine. “Part of what drove our thinking is the research we did on where the [alcohol] industry is going,” he said. “As social mores change, there’s less of a line between beer and wine, and spirits.

Ladd added that he expects the league’s new guidelines to “double, if not triple our revenues” from spirits sponsors, which he currently placed in the “seven-figure range.”