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What Does the MLS Need to Do to Drive More Revenue from Sponsors

What Does the MLS Need to Do to Drive More Revenue From Sponsors?

Without a doubt, Major League Soccer is on a trajectory to make the 2020s a breakthrough decade with the American public that will transform the landscape of international sports forever. Domestic attendance for the developing league has been steadily increasing for the past eight years, and in 2024, the US will host the Copa America and follow that up as joint host of the 2026 FIFA World Cup. 

Fans across the country will have the opportunity to experience the thrill of international soccer competition on the biggest stages imaginable, and the momentum is steadily propelling the league into the loftiest realms of sports entertainment. All this growth has been no accident; MLS leadership has cultivated the league’s meteoric rise through investments in youth engagement, tech partnerships, sponsorship deals, and world-class talent that are creating electricity for fans in every aspect of the American soccer experience. 

It’s a bold and ambitious strategy and it will demand unprecedented buy-in from sponsors across every aspect of the sports and entertainment industries to sustain. So, what does the MLS need to do to drive more revenue from sponsors? In a word: innovate. To court them, the league will need to leverage every technology advantage available to deliver an unparalleled experience for fans and a can’t-miss investment opportunity for competitive brands.

Soccer is The Beautiful Game because the principles that define play are a universal framework for success in every aspect of human competition. That includes the bottom line, and the recipe for success on the field is the same formula that will drive the sponsorship revenues MLS needs to capitalize on the future of the game. 

1. Dispersal: Creating a Growth Environment

Growing the game domestically is the number one priority of U.S. Soccer’s strategic vision, and widening its reach with the public will be a key metric sponsors need to see to understand the value of an investment. Connecting with the next generation of aspiring players and fans is the future of the sport; data shows that the strong majority of new soccer fans are young and culturally diverse, and they propelled 2023 attendance to nearly 11 million on the back of eight years of steady growth. 

Much of this enthusiasm is being cultivated by youth initiatives like Soccer for Success, which have seen year-over-year participation increasing 39% on average. Technology is also playing a key role, with aiScout and aiLabs making it easier, cheaper, and faster for aspiring athletes across the country to deliver accurate performance data to MLS talent scouts online. 

All of these efforts are ensuring the fanbase of the future continues to evolve, and those lifelong soccer lovers represent a tantalizing opportunity for sponsors looking to invest in the sport. 

2. Penetration: Connecting with Fans with the Game

In 2023, Apple and MLS announced one of the most exciting partnerships in all of sports. The $2.5 billion, 10-year deal will offer Apple TV subscribers the opportunity to tune into MLS games anywhere in the world with no blackout dates or restrictions. 

This high-profile connection will make watching MLS games and exploring content easier, faster, and more accessible than ever before, and offers sponsors an unprecedented opportunity to get their products and services in front of a worldwide audience of sports fanatics. By continuing to explore innovative technology partnerships that increase viewership and access, MLS can penetrate deeper with domestic and international fan bases that are already driving annual sponsorship revenues to nearly $600 million a year.

Of course, MLS is all about the electricity of the stadium atmosphere. The goal of building TV viewership is to entice fans to come to a live game!

3. Movement: Facilitating the Live Experience

Both the Copa America and the 2026 World Cup are guaranteed to shatter attendance records for American soccer and build on the momentum the game is already enjoying. On top of that, fans are flocking to see a growing roster of international superstars like 8-time Balloon d’Or winner and reigning World Cup champion Lionel Messi take the field with Inter Miami. 

All of this is boosting ticket and merchandise sales, which is attracting a new wave of potential sponsors. Atlanta United FC tops the live gate with an average of nearly 50,000 fans buying tickets for game day. In fact, it’s the second-highest attendance rate in both North and South America, and the league’s buzz has already prompted a 15% increase in sponsorship deals in 2023. Plus, fans who have a great experience at the game are much more likely to become lifelong fanatics who are dedicated to their local team and stadium atmosphere. After all, there’s no substitute for a home game that truly makes patrons feel at home.

The record attendance numbers are sure to make gameday a fantastic experience for fans, but what does the MLS need to do to drive more revenue from sponsors while managing increasing logistical needs? Simply put, MLS teams will have to embrace cutting-edge strategies to streamline their events. One of the key innovations that are slashing ticketing and concession lines and delighting fans is Wicket’s facial authentication software. 

These Express Access lanes are already slashing wait times, overheard, and security costs for teams like the Columbus Crew and Atlanta United FC from the gate to the beer line. Over 50% of fans indicated they would be willing to spend $10 more on food and beverages if it didn’t cost them so much time away from the game. These innovations mean fans will be buying more without missing the action they paid to see on the field, and that’s a win/win for sponsors and MLS alike. 

4. Support: Streamlining Operations 

Facial authentication credentialing services are saving MLS host venues money behind the scenes as well. By simplifying and accelerating access for staff, press, and team members, organizers are able to deliver a better stadium experience for patrons as well as cut the cost of back-of-house operations. That means more revenue can be diverted towards maximizing sponsor exposure and creating the best possible experience for fans. 

Innovation and Creativity: Driving MLS Sponsorships with Tech

Without a doubt, the 2020s are going to be a defining decade for MLS, but what does the MLS need to do to drive more revenue from sponsors? Whether it’s introducing new fans to the live MLS experience or adding value to the die-hard season ticket holders who can’t wait to start cheering on their team, the future of the game and its value to sponsors will continue to be defined by the technological innovation and creativity the teams can bring to bear. 

Technology like Wicket that enhances the fan experience are some of the premier innovations transforming the future of the sport and connecting fans and sponsors through the game like never before. Its facial authentication software is easy to deploy with off-the-shelf hardware and can be onboarded and live for various stadium applications in a matter of weeks instead of months. Fans can opt in and out any time, and its 99.7% accuracy and 0% reported false positive rate make it one of the most reliable winning strategies in all of sports. 

Contact us today to schedule a demo, and join the other MLS teams at the forefront of sports entertainment. 

About Wicket

Wicket Software is a privacy-first facial authentication platform provider with patented computer vision AI technology that enables sensational event experiences for fans, guests, and employees with frictionless touchpoints that delight users and strengthen security.

Wicket has been in use since 2020 and deployed for facial ticketing, credentialing, access control, and payments in numerous sports stadiums, at major conferences, and in corporate office environments.

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