- Procter & Gamble signed a multiyear sponsorship of Major League Soccer (MLS) that aims to bring greater equity and inclusion to the sport while broadening the CPG giant's reach with multicultural fans, according to an announcement.
- The deal kicks off as MLS commences its 26th season this week and will see P&G sponsor the Mexican National Team's U.S. Tour, Leagues Cup, Campeones Cup and the MLS All-Star Game. It also arrives ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will be hosted in North America.
- Through the partnership, P&G and MLS will work with local communities to open up youth access to soccer at the collegiate level and beyond. The pact builds on P&G's existing deals with the National Football League and Olympic Games.
P&G is entering a multiyear agreement with MLS as sports viewing habits shift and courting diverse consumer groups grows more important to marketers in categories like packaged goods. The agreement, which includes a sponsorship of the Mexican National Team's U.S. Tour, could help the marketer connect with Hispanic consumers who wield increasing purchasing power but are often underserved in U.S. media. Gillette, Old Spice, Dawn, Crest, Oral-B, Charmin and Bounty are among the brands emphasized in the deal.
At the same time, P&G clearly sees a purpose-driven angle in fortifying its positioning around professional soccer. The company has made waves in recent years for tying its sports marketing to social causes. Its Secret deodorant line, a sponsor of the U.S. Women's National Team (USWNT), in 2019 put out a call for equal pay in the sport after the USWNT filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation regarding the issue.
With the latest deal, P&G will work with MLS to lower financial barriers for young athletes to pursue soccer. For MLS, the backing of one the world's largest advertisers by media spend could help the league broaden its appeal amid an ambitious expansion plan.
Pro soccer has steadily gained traction with U.S. viewers over the years, while never taking off to match the level of engagement and cultural significance it receives elsewhere in the world. MLS hopes that strides made during the pandemic could serve as a bigger jumping off point.
"The sport is on the rise like never before, and adding P&G as a key strategic partner with incredible marketing and consumer engagement expertise will undoubtedly help us accelerate our growth," Gary Stevenson, MLS deputy commissioner and president and managing director of MLS Business Ventures, said in a press statement. "There has never been a more promising time for soccer, and we look forward to partnering with P&G for many years to come."
MLS made a splash last year with an MLS Is Back Tournament that ran as many other live sports remained on hold, filling a vacuum in appointment viewing caused by the pandemic. Gross viewership for the league was up 70% year-on-year in July 2020, as reported in The Guardian, but TV ratings still underwhelmed some industry watchers.