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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)