On Tuesday, Heineken entered into a multi-year, multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with MLS. Conflicting reports put it at either four or five years, with each year of the deal being worth 10-million dollars. Beginning in 2015, Heineken will feature prominently during broadcasts, with on-site signage, digital advertisements, and point-of-sale materials. The problem here is that while Heineken will become the league's Official Beer, that doesn't necessarily translate into being a club's Official Beer.
For example, the Whitecaps, Lions, and BC Place have a deal with Budweiser that runs through the 2016 season. In a worst case scenario, as a player prepared to take a throw, and cameras zoomed in on him, there could be supporters drinking out of plastic Budweiser cups above, and Heineken signage below.
If this kind of talk seems familiar to you, feel free to insert your own joke about the aborted Bell Pitch at Telus Park on Rogers Sportsnet.
Football is no stranger to awkwardly timed sponsorship deals. Unless a compromise can be struck, Manchester United FC face the embarrassing prospect of switching from Nike to Adidas kits halfway through their next preseason, as their current deal with Nike runs until August 1st.
With league sponsorship secured, Heineken can now turn its attention to brining point-of-sale materials to the league's member clubs. Agreements are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
The deal also means the end to Budweiser's 19-year association with the league, and will be Heineken's first foray into major league sponsorship in North America.
Football "has been an invaluable platform for the Heineken brand for years, with our position as sponsor of the UEFA Champions League and other... properties around the world," said Nuno Teles, Heineken Chief Marketing Officer.
Supporters "appreciate the opportunity to enjoy fist class [football] with the highest quality premium beer. With this partnership, we look forward to continuing a lengthy tradition of creating unique experiences for fans everywhere and drive participation and engagement in the sport in a way that has never been done before..."
"We are excited to welcome Heineken on board as we approach the League's 20th season," said Gary Stevenson, President and Managing Director, MLS Business Ventures. "Heineken is a supporter of [football] globally and is a great fit for what's next for [MLS]."
With New York City FC and Orlando City SC joining for 2015, the as yet unnamed Atlanta club in 2017, and David Beckham's Miami club at some point down the road, the chance to partner with the league was an attractive one for Heineken.
MLS already has the highest percentage of Millennial and Hispanic audience among the major North American sports, and football is the number one participation sport in both Canada and the United States. Plus the league will also serve as a seamless counterpart to Heineken's other football initiatives, such as their longstanding sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League, giving them a year-long engagement with football's supporters.