Mike Koeshartanto

Forbes’ SportsMoney Index Illustrates Rise of MLS

This week we’ve been highlighting some of the results from Forbes’ SportsMoney Index – a list of 430 of the top athletes, teams, brands, and agencies in the world of sports based on Forbes’ brand valuations. From the NFL, to golf, to MMA, and beyond, Forbes’ list is a catch-all for the most valuable brands in sports based on financial power and influence in the sporting world. To create the rankings, Forbes’ combined all of their annual valuation lists and proprietary financial data into a single ranking that reflects monetary success and how value affects/influences others.

Soccer is well represented on the list thanks to global powerhouses like Barcelona and Real Madrid, as we’ve illustrated this week. In the below graphic you can see just how strong the influence of these two clubs are on the global sporting scale. Not only are they the most valuable teams regardless of sport, but four of their players are among the top ten global athletes in any sport (James Rodriguez sits just outside the top ten). Overall, soccer teams, players, brands, and agencies make up roughly 20 percent of the entire global list.

For more information about Forbes’ SportsMoney Index, check out their full rankings here.

Here in North America, soccer’s power and influence continues to rise. With the twenty-second season of Major League Soccer beginning tonight, we figured we’d take Forbes’ SportsMoney Index rankings and take a closer look at the top MLS teams, players and league partners.

20 of the 22 MLS clubs made Forbes’ list and the two that didn’t are the teams making their league debuts this weekend in expansion clubs, Minnesota United and Atlanta United. Without access to the data and Forbes’ valuations it’s interesting to note the order of MLS teams on the list. Even more interesting is that several MLS clubs rank higher than international clubs like Tottenham (#254), Borussia Dortmund (#280), and Roma (#327). In terms of the most-valued players in MLS, there aren’t too many surprises, as the top five are among the most well known players in the league.

On the brand side, MLS boasts 17 league partners across categories like education, banking, automotive, and healthcare. Listed in the above graphic are the top five MLS partners included in the Forbes’ list, including companies like Coca-Cola and Adidas who have been tied to the soccer world for decades. As we enter the MLS season, here’s a quick refresher on how these five league partners are showcasing their partnership.

Adidas – Official Athletic Sponsor and Product Supplier

Adidas has been an MLS partner since 2004. In addition to supplying official team jerseys (2017 MLS jerseys) and all official gear, Adidas supports several youth development initiatives like Generation Adidas – an MLS Draft mechanic aimed to sign top prospects – and the Generation Adidas Cup competition for MLS academies.

Coca-Cola – Official Beverage Partner (non-alcoholic)

Coca-Cola has been an MLS partner since 2015. According to the annual SportsBusiness Journal MLS sponsor loyalty survey, Coca-Cola has become the brand that soccer fans most likely associate with the league. More than 55 percent of avid MLS fans identified Coca-Cola as the league’s official soda – the highest response rate of the study.

AT&T – Official Communications Service Partner

 AT&T partnered with MLS in 2009 and was formerly the official sponsor of the MLS All-Star Game. AT&T delivers exclusive content, access to games, and more to the tech savvy fans of MLS. According to SportsBusiness Journal’s MLS sponsor loyalty survey, AT&T was correctly identified as an official league partner 43 percent of the time by avid fans and 38 percent of the time by casual fans (up 7 and 2 percent, respectively).

Wells Fargo – Official Retail Banking & Commercial Lending Partner

Wells Fargo has been an MLS partner since 2013 and is the sponsor of the MLS WORKS Community MVP Contest, which recognizes individuals who use soccer to make a difference in their communities. Wells Fargo sponsor recognition is up 2 percent among avid fans according to SportsBusiness Journal’s sponsor loyalty survey.

Audi – Official Automotive Partner

Audi’s partnership with MLS commenced in the 2015 season. The German automaker is the presenting sponsor of the MLS playoffs and in March, they launched the Audi Player Index – a statistical tool that tracks player stats in real-time during matches. On a local level, Audi was recently announced as the naming-rights partner for D.C. United’s new stadium to be opened in 2018. Per SportsBusiness Journal, Audi’s brand recognition remained the same year over year among avid MLS fans, but rose 3 percent among casual fans of the league.

From new players to new teams to new sponsors, there are plenty of storylines to follow as we enter a new season. It will be interesting to see how all the league properties grow within the rankings if Forbes continues to refresh their SportsMoney Index annually. Keep an eye out for what the league’s sponsors, new and old, are doing throughout the season, as the league’s profile here in the U.S. and Canada has never been higher.

Tune in tonight at 9:30PM ET on Fox Sports 1 as Minnesota United makes their MLS debut on the road in Portland.

Categories: Featured, Finances, Major League Soccer, Soccer Marketing, Sponsorship