By Barry Janoff
March 11, 2016: Thanks in large part to the powers that be in such companies as adidas, Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Mondelez, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, sponsorship spend on soccer in the U.S. is expected to set a record, reaching upward of $333 million in 2016.
That is up nearly 10% from 2015 and is outpacing both the 5% growth in overall sports spending and the 4.5% increase in North American sports sponsorship spending this year, according to research, sponsorship and consulting firm IEG, Chicago.
The numbers from IEG focus on Major League Soccer, U.S. Soccer, other pro soccer leagues such as the North American Soccer League and events such as the 2016 Copa America Centenario this June.
The spend also reflects the impact of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
By comparison, the NFL's total sponsorship revenue this past season was a record $1.2 billion.
The NBA and its 30 teams hit $739 million last season, MLB sponsorship revenue in 2014 was $695 million and the NHL reached $447 million, according to IEG.
Worldwide sponsorship revenue on motorsports topped $5.3 billion, golf hit $1.65 billion in 2014 and tennis was at $739 million, per IEG.
Beyond the U.S., the domestic sponsorship numbers reflect a rise in soccer sponsorship spend worldwide.
According to research firm Statista, which provides information to companies and universities around the world, global sponsorship spend on soccer will hit a record $60.2 billion, up from $57.5 billion in 2015, $55.3 billion in 2014, $48.6 billion in 2011 and $46.3 billion in 2010.
The most active company in U.S. soccer and one of the most around the world is adidas, which is an official partner with MLS, a top-tier sponsor with FIFA, and the kit provider for such clubs as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester United and the Mexico National Team.
Adidas also has deals with two of the most iconic active players in the sport: Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
ManU's ten-year kit deal with adidas, which begins this year, is valued at $1.14 billion, the largest such deal in soccer history, according to industry analysts. Manchester United also has an $80 million jersey-front sponsorship deal with Chevrolet.
High on the sponsorship deal list is Barcelona, which has a kit deal with Nike and a jersey-front sponsorship pact with Qatar that bring in a combined $80 million annually.
Following adidas, the companies most active in U.S. soccer are Chipotle, Anheuser-Busch, Advocare, Heineken, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Papa John's, according to IEG's Soccer Sponsorship Report 2016.
Quick-serve restaurant is the most active category in U.S. soccer, followed by medical, retail, food and insurance.
The Top Ten most active categories also include beverages (non-alcohol), automotive, beer, banking and telecom, per IEG.
In addition to adidas, MLS sponsors include Advocare, Allstate, AT&T, Audi, Chipotle, Coca-Cola, Continental Tire, DraftKings, EA Sports, Ethihad Airways, Heineken, The Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Makita, Mondelez, Tag Heuer and Wells Fargo.
Sponsors for U.S. Soccer, the governing body for soccer in America (and which oversees the Men's and Women's National Teams) include AT&T, Anheuser-Busch, Century 21, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Continental Tire, Coppertone, Johnson & Johnson, Liberty Mutual, Mondelez, Nike and Powerade.
FIFA top-tier partners include adidas, Coca-Cola, global energy company Gazprom, Hyundai-Kia Motors and Visa.
Sponsors for the Copa America Centenario tournament (June 3-26) include Coca-Cola, Nike, Sprint and State Farm.
Under Armour, which has numerous international soccer deals, is making a big splash on the U.S. pitch. The company just signed to become the official ball for NASL and then signed with the New York Cosmos as Under Armour's first U.S. pro soccer team sponsorship.
This past fall, the brand launched its first-specific soccer campaign, “Slay Your Next Giant,” which features Memphis Depay of the English Premier League's Manchester United. Under Armour soccer pacts also include Tottenham Hotspur, FC St. Pauli, AZ Alkmaar, and São Paulo FC, as well as Lauren Holiday and Kelley O'Hara, members of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team that won the FIFA Women's World Cup last summer.
Other Cosmos partners include jersey-front sponsor Emirates Airline, Seiko, Coca-Cola, Buffalo Wild Wings, Toto, Sam Adams and First Nationwide Title.
In February TAG Heuer became the official timekeeper for MLS and U.S. Soccer. TAG Heuer also unveiled a deal with Alex Morgan, forward for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, which has qualified to compete in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“Soccer is the fastest growing sport in the United States, and it is also most popular amongst the youth demographic, a generation we aim to connect with,” Kilian Muller, president for TAG Heuer North America, said in a statement.
"Soccer is the fastest growing sport in the U.S., and it is also most popular amongst the youth demographic, a generation we aim to connect with."
To support the 20th season for MLS, and just five months shy of the Summer Olympics in Rio, Heineken this month combined its "decades of passion for soccer with the momentum the beautiful game has seen in the U.S." via a multi-platform campaign, "Soccer Is Here."
The effort is anchored by a trio of spots featuring icons from the sport: David Villa, who built his career with Valencia, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid and is now a captain for MLS New York City FC; MLS and U.S. National Soccer Team legend Landon Donovan; and Carli Lloyd, captain for the U.S. Women's National Team. whom Heineken said is the brand's first female athlete spokesperson.
According to Villa, "The U.S. has taken a liking to soccer. There are more games televised, and more people are watching. Everywhere I have travelled in the U.S., I see fans eager to get to know the game I love.
"Heineken's support of soccer is known wherever you go around the world, and with their championing of the game in the U.S., myself and other players are excited to showcase the game we love to fans all across the country," said Villa.