Alcoholic Beverage Companies Continue To Invest In The MLS

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Article republished on businessofsoccer.com

As with many sports, soccer fans and beer go together as well, rum and coke - for the sake of this article.  It is a pairing that dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s as football dramatically increased its popularity throughout Europe.  Fans in the United States, however, have yet to see alcoholic beverage companies seek the significant corporate opportunities available in Major League Soccer,  that they have with the other major sports.

Budweiser has been the official beer sponsor of Major League Soccer since its inception in 1996 and has continued support the league and some teams through its short history.  Other beer and alcohol companies have been hesitant to invest and allocate marketing dollars to the MLS.  The partnership with Budweiser provides naming rights to the Budweiser Golden Boot, which goes to the player with the most goals.  Prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Budweiser co-hosted the Budweiser Cup with the MLS.  It allowed amateur footballers to compete internationally in a 6 versus 6, small-sided tournament.  The best teams were rewards with an opportunity to compete in the final tournament during the World Cup festivities in South Africa.  

"In every corner of the world, football fans share a passion for their favorite teams and players, and they enjoy watching the games with a cold beer." - Tony Ponturo, Vice President of Global Media and Sports Marketing, Anheuser-Busch, Inc.

Additionally, Budweiser continues its tradition and involvement in soccer as the Official Beer Sponsor of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.  Budweiser has been a sponsor since the 1986 FIFA World Cup.

A handful of teams in the MLS (including Portland, Los Angeles, Colorado, Philadelphia, New York and New England) do not list any alcoholic beverage company as a corporate sponsor.  More surprising the Union have yet to acquire a beer sponsor as Philadelphia was named 'Best Beer Town' by Maxim earlier in 2010.

Several teams have obtained alcohol sponsors, though none have become a major sponsor to including the company on the team's kit or in the name of stadium.  Seattle Sounders, Real Salt Lake, Sporting KC, Houston Dynamo, Columbus Crew, Chicago Fire, and Vancouver Whitecaps note Budweiser (including Bud Light) as official corporate sponsors.  D.C. United, San Jose Earthquakes, and Chivas USA list Corona Extra as official beer sponsors. Uniquely, Toronto FC have acquired Carslberg as its official beer sponsor and FC Dallas has Yellow Tail wine as an official sponsor.

Corona Extra (owned by Grupo Modelo) became the official jersey sponsor of Chivas USA in an announcement released last week.  The two have agreed to a multiyear agreement, which will also allow Corona to display signage throughout the stadium during home matches.  A February 16th event to unveil the club's new kits has been scheduled, although the kit has already been leaked online.  Chivas USA have yet to update the club's sponsor page as it still shows Mexican convenience store, Extra, as its kit sponsor during the 2010 season.

Expansion club, Vancouver, announced a partnership with Budweiser (Anheuser-Busch) and Labatt Breweries.  It is a five year deal that will allow co-branded advertisements, exclusive signage throughout the stadium and Budweiser to become the sponsor of the 'Man of the Match' award for each of the club's home matches.

"Budweiser's support for soccer at all levels - from the FIFA World Cup down to local leagues - makes this the perfect partnership for our club, as we begin a new era as a Major League Soccer club." - Paul Barber, Chief Executive Officer, Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Although many domestic and imported beers have a presence at stadiums throughout Major League Soccer, alcoholic beverage companies (such as MillerCoors) may find value in the league and seek potential opportunities to attract fans.  Major League Soccer would benefit the most from beverage sponsorships when clubs are included in advertisements and commercials.  Most interesting will be the impact of the Corona-Chivas agreement as the Corona logo will likely not appear on the youth version of the club's kit.  It appears socially responsible for the company not to include the logo on such versions of the kit.

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