Can soccer be a differentiator for Target?
In its biggest push ever into team sports, Target reached sponsorship agreements with Major League Soccer (MLS), U.S. Youth Soccer and one of MLS’s newest clubs, the Minnesota United FC.
The sponsorships come as MLS is adding teams and its attendance recently jumped ahead of the NBA and NHL on a per-game basis.
The game is also increasing in popularity with younger and multi-cultural consumers in the U.S. At the store level, sales of soccer-connected merchandise climbed 15 percent in 2016, the fastest-growing sub-category within Target’s sporting goods business. Target has also been increasing its emphasis on Hispanic marketing, expanding into urban centers and shifting its corporate giving strategy from education to wellness.
“There are so many things that drew us to soccer — it’s multicultural, watched and played by families and is growing immensely in popularity,” said Rick Gomez, SVP, marketing, in a statement.
The three-year partnership with MLS includes broadcast advertising on Univision, Fox Sports and ESPN as well as in-stadium signage. As the official retailer for Youth Soccer, Target becomes the presenting sponsor of the Target United Cup — the largest recreational soccer tournament in the country that will visit 30 to 40 cities. Finally, Target’s bullseye logo will be featured on the jerseys of the Minnesota United FC, the discounter’s new hometown MLS squad.
“Brands that invest in soccer today will be really happy brands in five years because soccer is growing in popularity,” T. Bettina Cornwell, head of the marketing department at the University of Oregon, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Still, it’s rare for a retailer to sponsor a professional sports league. Dick’s Sporting Good has a sponsorship deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) but no professional one. Among mainstream retailers, Kohl’s, which sponsors the Color Run 5K-series, stands out for investing in fitness events.
Last year, Target ended its 27-year sponsorship of IndyCar. In the Minneapolis market, its name graces Target Field, home of the Twins, and Target Center, home of the Minnesota Lynx and Timberwolves.
- Target Announces Major Push into Soccer in the U.S.; Becomes Official Partner of Major League Soccer and Minnesota United FC – Target
- Target Latches On to Soccer With Official MLS Sponsorship – Minneapolis Star-Tribune
- Target Latches On to Soccer With Official MLS Sponsorship – Advertising Age
- Target Is Now a Major League Soccer Sponsor – Fortune
- Expansion could backfire on MLS – Los Angeles Times
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does Target’s investment in soccer make sense? Do you see more potential upsides than limitations in the sponsorships?