Latino Stars Lead MLS Brand Growth: in Merchandise

What: Zlatan Ibrahimović, Carlos Vela and Josef Martinez check in as the top three in sales on MLSstore.com to date in 2018.
Why it matters: That these and other Latino stars dominate the list reflects their popularity among not only Hispanic fans but soccer supporters in the U.S. as a whole.

As MLS (@MLSplayoffs get ready to kick in, it is interesting to see the rainbow of kits sold this season and who the fans are choosing to wear: Latino stars anyone?

Data released this week showed that Zlatan Ibrahimović’s (@Ibra_officialimpact on the league as a marketing opportunity was as big as it was on the field, as the 37-year-old led all sales on MLSstore.com since the beginning of 2018.

Ibrahimović beat crosstown rival Carlos Vela (@11carlosV), of LAFC, for the top spot. Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez (@JosefMartinez17ranked third, while former England captain Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) was fourth despite not signing with DC United until July. Atlanta’s Miguel Almirón, who had the top-selling jersey, fell to fifth.

The Latino market ... continues to be the prime growth spot for MLS in North America.

The list for 2018 was reflective of MLS global appeal, especially in the Latino demo, as 18 MLS designated players featured on the list, including David Villa, Ezequiel Barco (YDP), Diego Valeri, Diego Rossi (YDP), and Giovani dos Santos.

Seven of the 13 non-American countries making the list again show the power of the Latino audience to MLS: Mexico (Vela, Dos Santos), Venezuela (Martinez), Paraguay (Almirón), Spain (Villa), Argentina (Barco, Valeri, Hector Villalba, Luciano Acosta), Uruguay (Rossi), and Colombia (Darwin Quintero Jr., Diego Chara).

The still to be determined value for MLS remains keeping home grown stars in the United States, as the majority of the bestselling Americans are the more established stars returning home after lucrative and successful careers abroad.

The Portada Brand-Sports Summit in Los Angeles on March 15, 2019 (Hotel Loews Santa Monica) will provide a unique setting for brand marketers to learn about the opportunities sports and soccer content offers to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.

“Major League Soccer continues to find its way up the chain in sports business in the United States, and the appeal of having global stars, especially identifiable Latino stars, in the mix is a huge selling point overall,” said veteran marketer and Columbia University Chris Lencheski. “Will it help when the days of Christian Pulisic and others playing on the national team are in their prime and playing in the U.S.? For sure. However for now the appeal of multinational players is just as important, and that’s great news for anyone involved in the business of soccer in America, a business which is still finding its way on the growth curve.”

The Latino market, one which is very soccer savvy and is no stranger to watching and embracing top flight soccer, continues to be the prime growth spot for MLS in North America. While recent reports have indicated more connections to Liga MX, which remains the most viewed professional soccer on the continent, that fact that Latino stars from various countries are still ratcheting up business is a good sign, and one that bodes well as the postseason begins for soccer in America.

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Cover Image: Carlos Vela (LAFC.com)

Joe Favorito @joefav

Joe Favorito has over 32 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. The Brooklyn, New York native has managed the day-to- day activities in strategic communications for: Two of the world’s hallmark sports and entertainment brands (the New York Knickerbockers and Philadelphia 76ers), the world’s largest professional sport for women (the WTA Tour), the world’s largest sports National Governing Body (the United States Tennis Association) and the world’s largest annual sporting event (the US Open). He also oversaw the strategic planning, investor relations, communications and digital business development of the International Fight League during its two year run as a Mixed Martial Arts venture and a publicly traded company. Favorito serves on the boards of the Weinstein Carnegie Group, New York Sports Venture Capital, the National Sports Marketing Network, the Drexel University Sports Business program, and Columbia University’s Sports Management program (where he is an instructor in Strategic Communications and Director of Industry Relations). Joe also maintains a well trafficked blog on the sports marketing and publicity field, “Sports Marketing and PR Roundup,” on the website joefavorito.com, as well authoring the first- ever text on the sports publicity industry (“Sports Publicity” published in August 2007 by Reed Elsevier and updated in 2012 by Taylor Publishing with a third printing coming in 2018), which is used in over 60 sports management programs in the U.S. He has been a guest speaker on sports marketing, social media and communications at a host of institutions, including Princeton University, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, the University of Florida Law School, New York University, the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and many others. He is also a frequent spokesperson on the industry for publications ranging from Ad Age and The New York Times to NPR and CBS News. A graduate of Fordham University, Joe, his wife and two children reside in River Vale, New Jersey.

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