LA Galaxy eyes new business from international partnerships

MLS club LA Galaxy is at the “beginning stage” of creating international and regional partnerships outside the US, according to the club’s head of partnerships.

Currently, MLS rules – as in all in major US sports leagues – prohibit sponsorship activations outside local markets, but this could change as US soccer clubs gain greater international recognition.

LA Galaxy is owned and operated by the LA-based sports and entertainment group AEG. Robert Vartan, senior director at AEG Global Partnerships, told SportBusiness Sponsorship: “Once the league gives us the full green light, we would be well-suited to do those types of partnerships. We would need to ensure that the overall league is on board and approved these efforts, but we are pretty confident that we would be one of the more relevant ones to do that type of deal.

“In addition, LA Galaxy is tied to the wider portfolio of AEG-owned, venue assets, events and music festivals across the world. Our counterparts that run the 02 Arena in London, for example, would be great conduit for the LA Galaxy as they’re already in discussions with brands in that market.”

LA Galaxy‘s international appeal has been enhanced by the acquisition of a number of world stars over the last decade, including David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Zlatan Ibrahimović.

Although “helpful and impactful from the commercial side and, more generally, with brand relevance,” Vartan said the priority is to build a winning team.

“With the big-name players, we have the backing of our ownership to do it, but we do it to win. Our partners know that, but the added bonus is the celebrity status that comes with it.

“It’s something that maybe some other clubs can’t do. We’re really lucky that a lot of these players that come from abroad, you give them an option of moving to Chicago or moving to Los Angeles and they usually pick Los Angeles.

“But again, the most important thing to us is winning, and when we continue to win, that’s where we see our success commercially. In the LA market, there are a lot of distractions, but also other sports teams – two teams for every sports league in LA –  so we are aggressive in competing with the local market and do a really good job with that.”

Attempts to broaden the sponsorship footprint would not apply within the US itself. Vartan added: “We wouldn’t want to have a partner from the Chicago team marketing in LA.”

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Another area where LA Galaxy could potentially make more sponsorship revenue is through technical apparel rights. These are currently held centrally by the MLS, which sold league-wide kit rights to adidas for seven years, from 2018 to 2024.

Vartan said the conditions for a change to the central selling strategy are yet to emerge.

“For the holistic side of the league right now, the adidas partnership is the best. But hopefully, there’ll be a time when clubs can be approved to do their own kit deal – on a rising tide that will raise all the ships. If one does it first, then it brings up the market value for others.

“That’s where we’re trying to get to, but right now, adidas has been a very committed partner for so many years and we’ll maybe see that further down the road.”