Special to NYSportsJournalism.com
January 19, 2017: Calling the move its largest push into team sports, national big box retailer Target has signed a multi-year deal to become an official partner with Major League Soccer, US Youth Soccer and the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
In addition, the Minneapolis-based company will become the jersey-front sponsor for the expansion MLS Minnesota United FC, with activation to include presenting sponsorship for the team’s initial campaign.
Financial terms of the alliance were not released.
As part of the strategy, Target said it would partner with a number of its leading vendors, including Belkin, Crest, Degree, Dove, Energizer, GE, Gillette, GSK, Hershey’s, Kimberly-Clark, Philips, Scotch-Brite, Smuckers, Tide and Venus.
"There are so many things that drew us to soccer — it’s multicultural, watched and played by families and is growing immensely in popularity,” Rick Gomez, svp-marketing for Target, said in a statement. "We’ve partnered with several incredible organizations and vendors to invite soccer fans everywhere to engage with the Target brand in new ways."
Target said it sold one million soccer balls last year and that sales of soccer-related merchandise rose 15%, its "fastest growing sub-category in the sporting goods business."
Target is prominent in sports in its hometown via naming rights for Target Center, which is home to the NBA’s Timberwolves and WNBA Lynx; and Target Field, home to MLB’s Twins.
Under terms of the deal, Target will run spots during MLS broadcasts on Univision, Fox Sports and ESPN; and will have "opportunities for in-stadium experiences, player appearances and ownership of certain major MLS platforms," which the league said would be unveiled in the future.
According to Kathy Carter, president, Soccer United Marketing, the commercial arm for MLS, "We’re excited to welcome Target to the soccer family. It’s great to see such a holistic approach being taken — from the professional ranks to the youth level. It’s also ideal timing as Target’s hometown club, Minnesota United FC, joins Major League Soccer this year. We look forward to working together for many years to come."
In addition to the Target logo and presenting sponsorship with the Minnesota United, Target said it would be a premier sponsor at MNUFC events across the Twin Cities, and would have signage in TCF Bank Stadium at all 17 home matches.
Minnesota United moved to MLS this season from the NASL,
In its alliance with US Youth Soccer — which includes more than three million players ages 5-19, plus 900,000 coaches, volunteers and administrators — Target will become the official retailer for the organization and the presenting sponsor of the Target United Cup, a recreational soccer tournament that will visit 30-40 cities.
"We’ve partnered with several incredible organizations and vendors to invite soccer fans everywhere to engage with the Target brand in new ways."
Target has also provided a $75,000 grant to the U.S. Soccer Foundation to support national expansion of the organization’s Soccer for Success program, a free after-school program intended to help kids "establish healthy habits and develop critical life skills through caring coach-mentors and family engagement."
According to Nick Rogers, president, Minnesota United FC, "Target believes they have a role to play in fueling the potential of soccer and soccer players at all levels in Minnesota and the entire club is thrilled to have them as a partner. I can’t wait to see our players and fans proudly displaying the iconic Target bullseye across their chests.
"Together, Target and Minnesota United will represent the state of Minnesota in our global game," said Rogers.
MLS partners also include adidas, Advocate, Allstate, AT&T, Audi, Chipotle, Coca-Cola, Continental, DraftKings, EA Sports, Etihad Airways, Heineken, The Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Makita, Mondeléz, SeatGeek, Southern New Hampshire University, Tag Heuer and Wells Fargo.
The 2017 MLS season begins March 3.
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