What would Valentine’s Day be without a little matchmaking?! Given the number of expansion teams entering MLS in the next few years, as well as all the new stadiums on the horizon, we thought we’d play Cupid and think about local brands who could play the role of stadium naming partners. Full disclosure before the rumor mills take our thoughts and run with them – the following team and brand pairings are done entirely for fun and as a conversation starter.
How did you come up with the pairings?
Great question! Our criteria for matching brand with team is pretty simple: identify brands within the market who have a tangible impact on the community. That impact can be through number of people employed within the region, the brand’s clout both locally, regionally, or nationally, as well as our assumed likelihood of their interest in soccer and the sport’s demographics.
See our graphic below for a full rundown of our eight pairings and scroll down for a brief thought on each.
Interesting thoughts – how about some insights?
As stated above, these pairings are purely speculative based on location and local involvement, but we put some thought into each. Some, like St. Louis, were significantly easier to discern. Others, like Columbus, were a little more challenging.
Austin FC & Whole Foods
Austin is a great, young market with plenty of options in industries like technology; however, we went with Whole Foods. Headquartered in Austin, the now Amazon-owned company can look to further target the millennial / young family market by having naming rights on the stadium of the only professional sports team in town. Dell is another obvious contender.
FC Cincinnati & Fifth Third Bank
Assuming there’s interest, the Cincinnati-based bank makes a lot of sense. The bank already has a presence in the NFL (Browns, Bengals), NHL (Blackhawks, Predators), motorsports, college sports, and minor league baseball – why not add soccer to the mix with a hometown team?
Columbus Crew SC & OhioHealth
The incredible community-based efforts to keep the Crew in Columbus are worth marveling at, but from a corporate perspective, Columbus was one of the more challenging pairings for us. Nationwide is a logical first choice, but with naming rights on the Columbus Blue Jackets arena, we decided to go with OhioHealth if for no other reason than the not-for-profit healthcare provider being Central Ohio’s fourth-highest employer.
Inter Miami & Heineken
Heineken was already announced as one of Inter Miami’s founding partners, so this is maybe cheating. However, South Florida and Miami, specifically, are strong markets for the Official Beer of Soccer – a designation they’ve had with MLS since 2014. Whether it’s ultimately a beer company or a liquor beverages company like Diageo (and their brand Captain Morgan), an alcohol brand feels right for Miami.
Nashville SC & Pedigree
With Mars Petcare headquartered nearby, there’s a natural local tie-in for a national product. With a major marketing focus on “bringing out the good” and shelter dogs, it would offer unique activation opportunities. Bonus – team and sponsor colors are already aligned.
Sacramento Republic & Blue Diamond Almonds
With headquarters in Sacramento and the jersey patch partner of the hometown Sacramento Kings in the NBA, Blue Diamond Almonds should extend to stadium naming rights with the Republic when they join MLS. As a healthy snack and popular milk alternative, the demographics align with soccer fans.
San Jose Earthquakes & Roku
San Jose and the Bay Area are hub of technology and startups, everyone knows that. But did you know one of those companies has offices next door to the Earthquakes’ stadium? Roku, who has long been a platform allowing MLS fans to watch their favorite team, seems like a logical fit. Local company. Local partner. National reach.
St. Louis & Enterprise Rent-A-Car
This is perhaps the most logical pairing on the list. The Taylor family, founders of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, are part-owners of the yet-to-be-named MLS club and have a deep connection to the city of St. Louis. Perhaps it’s too obvious for the first majority-led female ownership group in MLS? For what it’s worth, Enterprise already has naming rights to the St. Louis Blues arena, as well.