A Coup And A Smart Hedge: MLS, adidas

Say what you will about MLS’s laissez-faire attitude towards CONCACAF refs because the MLS front office just hit some paydirt.

adidas North America head Patrik Nilsson

Announced this morning, a new deal with adidas, at $200M per for 8 years. That’s $25M per year and it represents–adjusted for inflation–a shade more than a 33% percent premium on the old deal.


Sponsorship dollars are hardly falling from the vine these days and to re-up with a large premium says a lot of about adidas’s continued commitment to the domestic game.

It is not without a good foundation for adidas mind you. The company has sponsored MLS since its inception and recently said that its World Cup sales beat expectations.

Earmarking some of the funds for development academies and youth is smart from both sides–for adidas to increase their grassroots penetration of the brand and for MLS to have some financial backing to get the teams started.

Our guess also is that adidas is looking to cement a deal with MLS now to gain some of the uptick in interest that will come with the increased soccer coverage from major networks and possibly hosting a World Cup.

When fans talk about growing soccer in the United States, this is the kind of deal that should make you smile.

One more interesting note for all of those fans who wish their team gets a new place to play, see Don Garber’s quote on the deal:

Our extension with adidas is a major statement by an internationally respected brand that MLS is increasing in value and that our commitments to stadium construction, strategic expansion, player development and improvement in the overall quality of play are playing dividend.

You can read the entire press release here.


• Perhaps some negativity on this deal around kit design from what we’ve read this morning. Two notes: Unscientifically, I find adidas kits to be less expensive on average than Nike kits, and secondly, put the money to use somewhere else instead of refurbishing kits.

The extra dollars here should be used to grow MLS and grow the fanbase, not necessarily to focus on the diehard fans with new kits. That may be a bitter pill, but it’s what is best for the domestic game to grow.

12 responses to this post.

  1. I agree that the sponsorship deal is another great step in the right direction, especially because it involves a monetary increase on the current deal in these tough economic times. And, fans’ kit maker preferences should hold little sway in a deal of this size and importance for the league as a whole.

    I do have a digression on your addendum – apologies as I realize the point of the post is to trumpet the continual influx of cash from adidas to further assist in growing this league.

    I had to double check your point on adidas kits being less expensive than Nike. It does appear that this season’s Nike range is retailing for $10 more than adidas’s range (though Nike’s WC kits are the same as adidas’s current MLS range price-wise). However, that point does come with a couple of caveats:
    1) adidas’s kit designs in the last 5 years or so have been astrociously boring and cookie-cutter, even for the big name clubs like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, while Nike has shown a propensity in the last 2 years or so to have enough templates that you don’t see two huge clubs with the same rock-em-sock-em robots uniforms just in different colors; prime example is Barca, Inter, and Juve – all famed for their vertical stripes and they all look different, while Argentina, AC Milan and Bayern look exactly the same with one color switched out.

    2) When it comes to MLS and their kit prices, the $69.99 is quite deceiving. That is for the “Replica” kit and not the “Authentic” one. While I’m sure there’s a difference in the material used and it’s intent (to look like the shirt or to actually be used by a top-level athlete). However, there’s also a visual difference to the shirts that always struck me as crass way to make more money off of the fans. If you check out Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Olympique Merseille, Argentina, Germany, etc. all have the Championship stars on the $69.99 replica shirts, but if you want the 4 stars on a DCU shirt you’ve got to pay an extra $40. I’m sure this blame should be laid at the foot of MLS, but adidas still has their hands in it.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/08/30 at 11:19 AM

      Barcelona’s kit is the *same* as Palace’s. Fact.


      • Check again George:

        Palace – http://bit.ly/9PGxYR
        Barca – http://bit.ly/bVKeTf

        Barca has wider stripes, while Palace’s kit looks like Inter from last season (which does resemble Barca from last season). Plus Nike gave Barca some bells and whistles with a different color collar and the Catalan stripes on it.


      • Check again George. Barca’s got thicker stripes. Palace looks more like Inter from last year.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/08/30 at 1:08 PM

          I was referring to the 2009/2010 kits – Barcelona has a new home kit this season! Besides, I *was* being facetious…


        • Barca gets new home kits every season. They’ll be back to looking like Palace in a year or so.

          Your facetiousness aside, I had to double check the founding date for Palace; wasn’t sure if Barca stole their shirt colors. They do have George’s Cross in their crest…

          I’m digging Palace’s new away shirt, kind of wishing the US shirt was more along those lines instead of the single sash.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/08/30 at 1:40 PM

          Now, I’m not too sure if you’re joking, but Barcelona has a “St George’s Cross” in their coat of arms (as do Milan – reason for Inter’s away kit a few seasons ago).

          Palace’s new away kit is sublime – it really reminds me of the kits I had when I was a kid. 1905.

          Did you see today’s Independent??!


        • Nike used the template from the new Palace kits last season with Juve (and other teams in the past) except the stripes went the opposite way. This year’s Palace looks like ManCity’s away strip from a season ago right down to the placement of the sponsorship, made by Umbro which is now owned by Nike.

          My Men’s league team sports the Palace shirt, though with Royal Blue and White, and would take their away kit in our colors if Nike offered it.

          And I wasn’t joking about looking up their founding dates…nor about the St. George’s Cross (I left out the St. part to make it closer to your moniker), I noticed that a few years ago in the Inter and AC Milan crests and thought it a touch odd.


        • Though our sponsor is much better: Smile Design Dentistry

          Here’s a shot of the kit which we wore in our inaugural season while we waited for some company in England to ship our real kits: http://bit.ly/cVL0S0


        • Posted by Paul on 2010/08/30 at 7:43 PM

          I’d rather have boring, classic retreads than the crap Nike barfs out for each team to wear. Just watching the world cup proves my point. All Nike wants to do is to barf something new and exciting and edgy and adventurous on their players, forgetting about club tradition, classic combinations of color, style, and patterns, and older kits that have fallen out of fashion in a Nike-obessed world.

          GO ADIDAS!


  2. Paul – good use of the term barf, but I have to question your comment “All Nike wants to do is to barf out something new and exciting and edgy and adventurous on their players, forgetting about club tradition, classic combinations of color, style, and patterns…”

    Manchester United’s Chevron last year may not have been the best implementation of a design but it’s an homage to the shirts worn by the club from 1922-19927.

    Fulham’s Away shirt with the red and black vertical stripes is reminiscent of their away kit from the 93-94 campaign.

    Arsenal’s Maroon/Currant kit for the last season at Highbury is an obvious throwback to their original shirts. Arsenal’s current Nike offering looks almost exactly like what they wore from 78-82.

    The current US Home kit is a throwback to 1950, and their away kit during the 2002 World Cup was a dead-ringer for the very first USMNT kit Nike produced.

    Both Nike and adidas are guilty of cramming some teams into their current template du jour – see all Nike outfitted teams from 2002-2005, especially the international federations. However, you’d be hardpressed to find all of the big countries and clubs that both Nike and adidas work with and tell me that at least Nike is trying to come up with something different. You can’t tell me that Spain, Mexico, and Germany’s home and away kits aren’t the same template with different colors (Germany Home is the lone shirt with any uniqueness having one set of racing striped running along the left breast which is very cool by the way), and further research will point out that Argentina’s away and Nigeria’s home are also exactly the same. Nike’s WC offerings this summer? I didn’t see anyone else sporting a sash like the US, or a thick color bar across the chest like Portugal’s Home, 2 vertical stripes down the center of the abdomen like Portugal’s Away, or Tiger Stripes like South Korea, or a double Chevron in the colors of the royal family like the Dutch Away kit.

    As for clubs I’ll give adidas some props for the Chelsea away and third kits this year and Olympique Merseille’s away or third kits (from any year) as they’ve gone and done something that’s different for them. But on the whole Nike does a better job of giving their bigger clubs a somewhat unique look. Have you seen Inter Milan’s stripes this year? Juve’s stripes look like lightning botls, which I’ll admit is a miss, but at least they tried something.


    • Oh and to finish my thought, while Nike may not always toss out a traditional look, they do circle back to them from time to time, look at Manchester United this year, very plain and basic, and a few years ago they had a solid red shirt with white trim on the collar, pretty traditional for that club. Nike and adidas are businesses in colusion with the clubs therefore they do need to come up with new styles every year otherwise there’s no reason for a fan to part with their hard-earned money for a kit.


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