As sports betting continues to flourish within the United States, another league has decided to open their sports sponsorship marketplace to the former as well as spirits. As of Wednesday, June 26th, not only will the MLB allow front jersey patches to display the name of sports betting and spirts companies but also will allow for both to sign stadium naming rights with any of the 24 MLS teams. And by 2020, clubs will be able to apply the changes to their sleeve patch sponsorships as well.
While the MLS may still lack in sponsorship dollars compared to their American counterparts — NFL, NBA, MLB, and the NHL, the shift will undoubtedly help the league by obtaining widely known and highly visible new partnerships. Additionally, sports betting and liquor sponsorships have been at the forefront of international sports revenue for an extended period. It is time for the U.S. to join.
“Internationally, sports betting in soccer has been embraced in the fabric of the game for so many years,” stated Carter Ladd, the league’s senior vice president of business development. “Expanding these right gives us the unique ability to build on the ubiquity of gambling in soccer and use it to our advantage.”
According to sources, several clubs which are located in states where sports betting has been legalized have already been in talks with both entities. D.C. United is taking steps towards allowing a sports betting facility within Audi Field and both the New York Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union are discussing naming rights with sports betting companies.
The MLS thought it prudent to push forward these various guideline operations to keep the league at the forefront of the ever-changing social landscape within the U.S. The league signed its first ever exclusive sports betting sponsorship in March with MGM Resorts.
Additionally, clubs will now be able to partner with sports betting companies. Partners will have the ability to use a club market for its sports book, which includes digital field board advertising and stadium signage. Clubs will also be able to sell advertising spots to various sports betting companies to be broadcast during MLS games. Other programming features can include betting lines or game odds. Lastly, clubs can create their live betting feeds.
Betting will also now be allowed in the stadium as long as it takes place in a private lounge of a property adjoining to the stadium.
“We want to be viewed as a progressive league, and provide our clubs with an appropriate level of flexibility,” Ladd told Fortune. “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.”
The hope is by changing the guidelines the league can bring on a variety of new partners that will not only engage fans in an entirely new way but also open up a plethora of new revenue streams. Both categories are lucrative and engaging for teams and fans alike. The MLS is committed on capitalizing on the fledgling legal sports betting market.
“While spirits is not a top five category for us [in terms of revenue], it’s also not super low,” stated Ladd. “We’re fairly confident that with these simple changes, this can double or triple the enterprise value of that category.”
The only caveat is no player under the age of 21 is be allowed in any spirits or sports betting advertising and no youth size jerseys will be made with sports betting or spirts insignia.
“We think this can be a big differentiator for the league,” stated Ladd. “Sports betting has been in the fabric of the game for a long time and is something international soccer consumers are accustomed to — we think these changes will put us not only at the forefront of the North American landscape, but also tap into the roots of the game.”
Now only time will tell if the MLS can attract the top names needed to be indeed able to see revenue growth and increased fan engagement.