Soccer is the biggest game in the world with many of the top leagues located in Europe. Leagues like the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and Germany’s Bundesliga are considered the highest level of soccer competition in the world. The United States’ top circuit is Major League Soccer (MLS) and although it’s still considered to be a cut below the top European leagues it is on the rise both in terms of popularity and quality of play.
The quality of play is still below the European leagues but now one ubiquitous component of European ‘football’ is coming to America. Major League Soccer (MLS) has confirmed that they will allow sports betting operators to serve as shirt sponsors for the league’s teams. In addition, spirits manufacturers will also be allowed to broker shirt sponsorship deals. This has been allowed for beer and wine manufacturers for years but this is the first time it has been extended to ‘hard liquor’ makers.
The branding opportunities for sports betting companies extend beyond shirt sponsorships. Also open to sports betting providers are stadium naming-rights, stadium signage, field-board advertising, ad spots and other programming. The most significant proviso might have been buried near the bottom of the press release–according to reports ‘sports betting operators are also eligible to set up in private lounges at MLS stadiums or on property adjacent to the stadium.’ Although it doesn’t make it explicit that sure sounds like on-site sports betting will be allowed at MLS venues.
Sports betting is more ingrained in the less squeamish and sanctimonious culture of European sports. Sportsbook branding is not only seen in television advertising during sporting events but is seen all over soccer stadiums, particularly in the English Premier League and lower circuits in the country. In some cases, sports betting brands are very tightly interwoven with team identity. For example, West Ham United of the English Premier League has been sponsored by Betway for over a decade.
Several months ago, the MLS became one of the first pro sports leagues in the United States to formalize an agreement with a sportsbook. The MLS has a deal with MGM Resorts International to serve as the league’s first ever ‘gaming partner’ while their co-partnered subsidiary Roar Digital will become the ‘exclusive sports betting partner of MLS’.