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Major League Soccer lands a top corporate sponsorship with Procter & Gamble

CNBC logoCNBC 4/13/2021 Jabari Young
  • Major League Soccer has reached a five-year partnership with Procter & Gamble.
  • The company will sponsor top soccer events, including the MLS All-Star Game.
  • The deal is worth $80 million to $100 million and will promote MLS content on P&G products such as Old Spice.
a group of men playing a game of football: Eddie Segura #4 of Los Angeles FC defends against Sergio Santos #17 of Philadelphia Union during the MLS match at the Banc of California Stadium on March 8, 2020 in Los Angeles. © Provided by CNBC Eddie Segura #4 of Los Angeles FC defends against Sergio Santos #17 of Philadelphia Union during the MLS match at the Banc of California Stadium on March 8, 2020 in Los Angeles.

Major League Soccer announced Tuesday a big corporate sponsorship deal with Procter & Gamble, a move that could help the league recover some of its Covid-19 losses.

P&G will sponsor some top soccer events as part of the five-year deal. These events include the MLS All-Star Game, the Mexican National Team's U.S. Tour and the Leagues Cup.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but according to someone familiar with MLS partnerships, the agreement is believed to be worth $80 million to $100 million. The source agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because the deal's financial terms have not been made public.

P&G will use MLS intellectual property on product brands such as Gillette, Old Spice and Crest to promote the league. MLS Deputy Commissioner Gary Stevenson called partnership "symbiotic."

"Those brands serve the broadest group of consumers in our country," Stevenson told CNBC on Monday. "If we execute the way we both want to execute, we are helping raise awareness for their brand with our audience, and they are helping raise awareness for our brand as well."

Soccer's popularity is rising among younger sports fans in the U.S. With P&G's activation, the company aligns with MLS to serve an emerging fan base.

"The sport of soccer is the sport for the new North American. It crosses a really valuable audience and it's multigenerational," Stevenson said. Referring to P&G, he added: "Their strength in the market and ability to communicate with so many consumers is valuable to us."

Procter & Gamble Co. Crest brand toothpaste sits on display in a supermarket in Princeton, Illinois. © Provided by CNBC Procter & Gamble Co. Crest brand toothpaste sits on display in a supermarket in Princeton, Illinois.

Like other U.S. sports leagues, MLS is recovering from the impact of the pandemic. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said the league lost close to $1 billion due to Covid. He expects revenue to further decline in 2021 since attendance is still limited at large sporting events.

MLS also faces other challenges.

The league settled a labor dispute with players in February, but it delayed the debuts of three new franchises. One of those franchises — in Sacramento, California — is unlikely to launch. MLS is now considering new markets, and Las Vegas could be in the mix.

MLS is also banking on luring a top media rights package to increase its fees from roughly $90 million a year. The current agreement with Disney's ESPN and Fox Sports runs through the 2022 season.

Keep in mind, the two media giants just gave the National Football League $2 billion each to run football games on their networks. Fox will also give Major League Baseball over $700 million per year, and ESPN returned the National Hockey League for $400 million per year. In a few years, the National Basketball Association will want an increase to its broadcasting rights.

But the partnership with P&G comes at the right time. The league is welcoming a top market in Texas, as the Austin FC team makes its MLS debut on Saturday. Outside of college sports, MLS will have a market to itself in Austin since there aren't other pro sports teams in the city.

"Major League Soccer is one of the most dynamic sports leagues in North America and this is a time of significant growth for the sport," Marc Pritchard, P&G chief brand officer, told CNBC via email. "Our multifaceted partnership will enable our brands to engage with millions of passionate fans, while also collaborating with MLS to be a force for good by helping communities throughout the country."

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