SEATTLE, WASH. - Sounders FC today announced that the club has engaged preeminent sports and entertainment company WME | IMG in its exploration of a future naming rights partner for an assets package that includes the club's jersey front, matchday pitch and training facility. Seattle's deal with current jersey sponsor Xbox expires following the 2018 Major League Soccer season.
"We're excited to put the full force of an innovative company like WME | IMG behind us as we explore our future naming rights options," said Sounders FC Chief Operating Officer Bart Wiley. "Since joining the league in 2009, Sounders FC has forged its own path and become a leader within the North American soccer landscape. As we head into our tenth MLS season, we feel that taking a fresh look at the value of our top partnership assets allows our club to achieve further success on and off the field."
Sounders FC has maintained its original naming rights sponsor, Xbox, since 2009, with the Microsoft gaming console appearing on both the team's jersey front and as part of the club's matchday home: the Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field. The new naming rights package being handled by WME | IMG includes both jersey and matchday pitch sponsorship, while also including rights to the team's training facility at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, Washington.
"We have been very pleased with our partnership with Xbox over the years and certainly plan to continue discussions with Microsoft as our current naming rights agreement comes to a close," said Sounders FC Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Michael Shockley. "However, with the continued growth and popularity of MLS and our club's sustained success on the field, we feel the time is right to explore all available partnership options to give our team every possible advantage going forward. We're proud to be the first MLS club to work with WME | IMG and look forward to their expertise and guidance."
WME | IMG is performing a full valuation of Sounders FC's jersey and naming rights package to aid in the process of selecting a brand that shares the same values and is best suited for the partnership.
"We're excited to bring the full resources of WME | IMG to bear on our first naming rights partnership with a Major League Soccer team," said Sean Barror, Senior Vice President, Naming Rights, IMG. "The Sounders are offering a unique package which adds additional layers to an already attractive rights package. We look forward to working with them to identify a strong partner that will help further accelerate the brand's growth."
WME | IMG's global partnerships division will lead discussions for the naming rights efforts on behalf of the Sounders. The division functions as a cultural marketing agency, guiding the world's leading brands on strategy and activation; sponsorships and endorsements; experiential marketing; research and insights; creative and design; public relations; and digital and original content. The group's other recent naming rights partnerships include work with Hickory Street Capital for its new Park at Wrigley Field, the Denver Broncos for stadium naming rights and the Boston Celtics for its jersey patch sale.
ABOUT WME | IMG
WME | IMG is a global leader in entertainment, sports and fashion operating in more than 30 countries. Named one of Fortune's 25 Most Important Private Companies, WME | IMG specializes in talent representation and management; brand strategy, activation and licensing; media production, sales and distribution; and event management.
ABOUT SOUNDERS FC
Winner of the 2016 MLS Cup, 2014 MLS Supporters' Shield and four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championships (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014), Sounders FC is Seattle's Major League Soccer franchise. With an ownership group led by Seattle-based entrepreneur Adrian Hanauer, Hollywood executive Joe Roth, Seattle Seahawks Chairman Paul G. Allen and entertainer Drew Carey, the club received an MLS charter on November 13, 2007 and has qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in every year of its existence. In 2016, Sounders FC reached a milestone as the franchise claimed its first MLS Cup championship with a road victory over Toronto FC. Since the club's debut MLS season in 2009, Sounders FC has set the standard for soccer support in North America by leading the league in attendance each year. Prior to joining MLS, the Seattle Sounders organization has been a part of the greater Seattle community and U.S. Soccer professional scene since 1974.