MLS Marketing Arm Extends Deal With Mexican National Team – Sportico

Relationship

By Eben Novy-Williams
Sports Business Reporter
Soccer United Marketing, the commercial arm of Major League Soccer, is extending its relationship with the Mexican national team.
For the next six years, SUM will continue to serve as the exclusive middleman for the Mexican Football Federation in the U.S. That includes negotiating commercial partnerships and sponsorships, plus promotion and operation of the team’s lucrative U.S. tours. The relationship will continue beyond the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar and encompass the 2026 event that will be jointly hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The extension comes almost exactly one year after SUM lost a high-profile client—U.S. Soccer announced last May that it was taking its commercial rights in-house after 20 years working with SUM. That partnership was often criticized as a conflict of interest.

Terms of the extension with the Mexican federation weren’t released. These deals typically include a predetermined amount of guaranteed revenue.

Nicknamed “El Tri,” for the tri-color national flag, the Mexican men’s national team is very popular in the U.S., which is home to about 36 million people of Mexican descent. Roughly one third of the Mexican soccer federation’s revenue comes from the United States across matchday income, TV rights and sponsorship deals, according to president Yon de Luisa.

“For us, the U.S. market is part of our home market because we have about 40 million of our people in the U.S.,” de Luisa said in an interview. “And in terms of purchasing capacity, you can expect that the 40 million in the U.S. has way bigger purchasing capacity than the 120 million in Mexico.”
The Mexican team’s jersey outsells the U.S. jersey in America, and its televised games draw more viewers. Since 2003, the team’s U.S. games have averaged more than 50,000 spectators, including a record 90,526 at a 2010 game in Los Angeles against New Zealand.
Companies likewise pay a lot of money to be a part of that community. SUM has brokered corporate deals with a range of partners, including Adidas, AT&T (NYSE: T), Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD), General Mills (NYSE: GIS), Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and Home Depot (NYSE: HD). (SUM doesn’t sell the Mexican team’s media rights, which are sold by the federation itself).
Moving forward SUM and the Mexican federation plan to increase their work with the women’s and youth national teams, including the men’s youth team, which won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Summer Games, and grow other programming around the U.S. tours, such as concerts and immersive shows. While most of the current schedule is built around the handful of games that the Mexican senior men’s team plays north of the border, the goal is to make the Mexican teams a 365-days-per-year commercial presence in the U.S.
There will also be increased opportunities for the Mexican men’s team to play in the U.S. in the next four years, de Luisa said. As a host of the 2026 World Cup, the Mexican team doesn’t need to go through qualifiers, and the federation intends to use those openings to play more in the U.S., he said.

Every MLS owner has an equity stake in SUM, which was founded in 2002 to help raise the commercial value of soccer in the U.S. As unlikely as it sounds today, back then no American broadcaster was planning to bid for the English-language rights to the 2002 and 2006 men’s World Cups, so MLS owners united to buy the rights for $70 million, packaged it with MLS games, and later negotiated deals with ABC and ESPN. Garber detailed the origin story during a SporticoLive  event last year.

MLS lost money on that deal, but gradually grew SUM’s sales and marketing staff to become one of soccer’s biggest dealmakers in America. In 2012, Providence Equity bought 25% of SUM for $125-$150 million; the league bought the stake back in 2017 and now owns all of SUM.
In addition to the Mexican soccer federation, SUM currently holds exclusive commercial rights to MLS, Leagues Cup, and other CONCACAF properties, including the Gold Cup, champions league and women’s events. Its relationship with U.S. Soccer expires at the end of the year.
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