As part of their jersey unveiling for the 2018 NWSL season, the Utah Royals announced a sponsorship deal with utility company Conservice. The deal is reportedly around two million dollars for a three-year deal, which would make it the biggest jersey sponsorship deal for a women’s soccer club in US history.
As recently as 2012, Real Salt Lake were in last place for MLS sponsorship deals, making just one million per year on a multi-year jersey deal with XanGo. For their new women’s team to approach that number a mere six years is a great sign, reflecting growing interest in the NWSL as well as the increasingly ambitious business that Dell Loy Hansen is running.
Many women’s teams who are affiliated with men’s clubs utilize their parent club’s existing sponsors when searching for jersey sponsors. The City Football Groups were already partners with Hays before putting their name on Manchester City Women’s kits. Providence Health already had a relationship with the Portland Timbers and chose to expand it into a jersey deal for the Portland Thorns. Deals like those offer stability, but not an open market, which may drive the price down.
Conservice, by contrast, is brand new to the club. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Dell Loy Hansen has an existing relationship with Conservice via his real estate holdings, but Conservice has no previous dealings with Real Salt Lake. The high price tag suggests that there was a healthy market driven by the desire to make headlines as well to secure opportunities for involvement with RSL.
With this news coming as it does so soon after the folding of the Boston Breakers, it’s hard to avoid making comparisons. The investment is positive news for a league that will be keen to assure observers of its long-term growth potential, but it’s difficult to imagine this deal being struck with an independent NWSL club. Microsoft’s deal with the Seattle Reign two years ago was accompanied by a broader adoption by the club of Microsoft’s analytics system, and seems a proof-of-concept deal close to home as much as an investment. Headline-making numbers like this deal will improve the overall ability of teams to get sponsors, but independent clubs will still be operating at a disadvantage.
Hopefully this investment will encourage other clubs to beat the deal and make the numbers public: there’s currently no other information on the what the numbers for the jersey sponsorship deals from other NWSL clubs are.