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What: Teams are seeing the success of working in new ways to improve sports fan engagement with their Latino fan bases.
Why it matters: This growing demographic is critical to franchises and brands, and the more ingrained franchises and brands are in the community, the more effective their marketing can be.

“We’ve gone away from the Mariachi band.”

That statement was made with tongue in cheek by the L.A. Galaxy’s (@LAGalaxyVP of Communications Brendan Hannan (@brendanhannan ‏). Brennan participated at 2018’s  Portada LA event. His comment signals how teams, especially those in the U.S. and in the business of soccer and basketball, are realizing the need to effectively engage in an authentic way with the Latino audience, and make that audience a key part of their marketing focus.

Connecting with Latinos

The key to success? Authenticity. For years, teams in North America would slap “los” on a jersey, sell some tacos, play some salsa music and call it a day. Box checked, and move on. Now, we see more teams being bilingual, especially Spanish, a priority in their marketing plans. They are engaging a growing demographic to make them fans for life. It’s becoming more and more important.

…[C]hange is not easy. Sometimes for those not willing to take the risk, the safer road is the first one traveled.

Teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks (@LosDbacks ‏) and the New York Mets (@LosMets ‏) dedicate more than one third of their budget to multicultural sports fan engagement at social, broadcast and community events. They know that the spillover effect for mainstream marketing will also grow. At the same time, young Latinos, whether they speak Spanish first or English first, will benefit down the road.

Success story

sports fan engagementA case in point of an authentic crossover was demonstrated L.A. The Las Vegas Lights’ Steve Pastorino talked about their deal with La Bonita Supermarkets (@LaBonitaMarkets). While the deal was a boon for credibility in the Latino community and for the expansion USL club and their brand, the real success was in getting non-Spanish speaking Anglo fans to go and check out the offerings at the chain.

The campaign got new faces into the store because of an authentic connection to all things associated with the team,” Pastorino added. “Our fans see and hear about the chain through our club, and it grows the overall community.” He added that this crossover was also seen in and around Las Vegas by brands like T-Mobile (@TMobileand Metro PCS (@MetroPCS). They also engage heavily in acquiring rising Latinos but can do so more easily, and more authentically, through sports. “We have become the great connector as a community. That connection really helps all tides rise, even in the desert,” he said.

Brands need time

Still, this is an evolving process for brands. Decision-makers tend to be older non-Spanish speaking risk-averse buyers.

“It’s easy to buy ESPN if you are a brand. No one will question it if you go and buy Telemundo or Spanish radio. Even if they buy association with an elite sporting event, there is still a challenge,” added Chris Lencheski, longtime sports marketer and professor at Columbia University. “That is certainly changing in sports like soccer, basketball, and baseball. But change is not easy. And sometimes the safer road is the first one traveled for those who won’t take the risk.”

Teams, however, can invoke such change with their dedication. They can show return at the grassroots level. Hannan pointed to several inner-city smaller field projects, five-on-five and even three-on-three, where Galaxy has built tremendous affinity. In turn, the projects opened doors for sponsors who might not have been able to identify a way to connect to a Latino fan base that can be elusive. “Our players enjoy the interaction because many times those kids are who they were, growing up,” he said. “It made great sense. You see the return much easier at the grassroots. It’s a great pathway into the community which we need to keep taking advantage of.”

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New chances

sports fan engagementThe next opportunity, especially for soccer and brands, will come with the World Cup. The Spanish-speaking consumer will be more attuned to all the goings-on around the games than ever before through all forms of media, and the nations they support, from Mexico and Spain to Peru and Argentina. It will be a way for soccer especially to engage with a community that may or may not be following MLS, or USL, or even the U.S. national team that closely. “If you are a brand and you have waited to try and engage with the World Cup until now, you may have missed the boat,” added Panini’s Jason Haworth (@sportsmktgguy), whose company will produce millions of sticker books and reap the benefits of brand affinity that comes with the World Cup.

Will teams be able to ride that wave as well? The answer appears to be a universal yes. “We will follow and engage with all the games. We will be right there with the segment of our fan base celebrating,” Pastorino added. “Soccer is the great unifier, regardless of language or culture.”

It seems like in multicultural sports fan engagement, especially around soccer, the universal sound of the victory bell replaces the Mariachi Band.

Cover image: VoicesOfNY.org

What: Panini’s Jason Howarth, Las Vegas Lights’ Steve Pastorino and the L.A. Galaxy’s Brendan Hannan weigh in on the importance of the Latino market at World Cup this summer.
Why it matters: Resetting from a U.S.-Canada focus to Latino fandom is critical for brands with World Cup ties.

There were about 48 hours of angst for Panini’s Jason Howarth (@sportsmktgguywhen the U.S. Men’s National team was eliminated for World Cup contention by Trinidad and Tobago.

“Then, we realized we needed to seize all the other opportunities we knew would exist in the U.S.,” he said. “After all when you go around the country and you see all the Messi and Ronaldo jerseys you quickly realize the U.S. team is probably not the focus of most fans anyway.”

That reset, and that opportunity, was echoed not just by Howarth, but also by executives from both the L.A. Galaxy (@LAGalaxyand the Las Vegas Lights (@lvlightsfclast Thursday on a panel about “The Beautiful Game” at Portada LA. at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. The message from all was clear: FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) presents a great business opportunity, especially for brands and teams that have the foresight to embrace all parts of Latino business and culture as the 2018 event quickly approaches.

When the World Cup shock wore off, the opportunity for teams and leagues and brands to creatively find new ways to engage in soccer in a still-growing marketplace is huge.

For the Galaxy, VP of Marketing, Communications and Digital Brendan Hannan (@brendanhannan ‏) was quick to point out that the multicultural approach the club has long taken with their fan experience will be buffeted by World Cup, even with the lack of a U.S. or Canadian National team in the field. The reason? Mexico. With two Mexican players on the roster (Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos) who are candidates for the national team, a wide and years-long  community outreach into the Mexican community, and a footprint that extends south to the Mexican border, LA’s longstanding Major League Soccer franchise has more than just a passing chance of business success when play begins in Russia.

“All our communication with the community is bilingual,” said Hannan. “Our community events and staff have a great understanding of what works and resonates in not just the Mexican but the Latino community as well, and above all, we fully embrace and enjoy the fact that the gateway to the Latino fan starts with the grassroots and will be wide open during World Cup. We are excited about the opportunities.”

Like the Galaxy, the Lights, the newest, and perhaps most disruptive, entry into Tier 2 USL ( ), understands the hyperlocal value of the Latino community to soccer as their key to business success and brand engagement.

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“The face of our franchise (Jose Luis Sánchez Solá – “Chelís”) is a legend in Mexico, we have nine players on our roster who are Mexican, and 20 of our 24 players are bilingual, so we fully understand the value that the Latino audience can bring to our business,” said Steve Pastorino (@StevePastorino), VP of Corporate Sponsorship for the Lights. “On Father’s Day at 8am, following a game the night before, where will we be as a team? Watching what will be the biggest first round matchup in World Cup, Mexico and Germany, with our fans and partners.”

Even with the Mexican focus, Pastorino, a longtime sports marketer who helped launch the MLS Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFireas well, pointed to the massive importance of all the soccer-playing Latino nations as a benchmark for brand success for the Lights. “No matter if it’s Argentina, or Peru or Brazil, we will embrace and leverage off the success in World Cup for all our Latino supporters, as soccer is really a great unifier of cultures, and there is no bigger event to unify around than the World Cup.”

That unification has been a massive boost again for Panini, whose sticker books for World Cup have become a global phenomenon. The numbers of books and stickers the company has been producing for World Cup are staggering; 2 million packets a day with over 70 million stickers being distributed in a week in over 100 countries including the U.S. The key concentration, both in the States and elsewhere, is in the Latino market.

Jason Howarth

“No country understands and appreciates the value of our sticker books better than Brazil,” Howarth added. “And the gateway for our business in the United States wasn’t really going to be through the U.S. national team (although the company did sign rising star Christian Pulisic  to a long-term deal); it was going to be through those Central and South American countries that have strong fan bases here in the U.S. The stories of Peru, Mexico, Argentina and the like will grow as the games progress, and with those stories will come even more affinity not just from the millions of followers those nations already have but from casual fans who will start watching World Cup and enjoying this massive stage when they might be doing something else. It is a huge opportunity for us not just now, but for our future business in soccer as well here in the U.S.”

Would it have helped had the U.S. qualified? Of course, all admitted. However, when the World Cup shock wore off, the opportunity for teams and leagues and brands to creatively find new ways to engage in soccer in a still-growing marketplace, and do it directly with the fastest growing demo in the U.S. (Latinos who are upwardly mobile and soccer astute) is huge.

“It’s an opportunity all of us are looking forward to, and we are pretty confident the stories will help us grow beyond what was possible even four years ago,” Pastorino added. “For a community like Las Vegas, it can’t be much more exciting.”

The angst for World Cup is certainly a distant memory.

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • U.S. SoccerThe U.S. Soccer Federation hired Irish wearables company STATSports to provide monitoring equipment for its four million registered soccer players in the United States. The deal will work on the world’s largest player data monitoring program and is valued at over $1.5 billion, according to a statement.
    “We will help drive and improve player environments through the exchange of data between clubs and U.S. Soccer as players enter and leave National team camps. Over time, this information will be used to research, support, and educate the entire landscape,” U.S. Soccer Director of Sports Development Ryan Mooney stated.
  • The New York Red Bulls got eco-friendly and partnered with Covanta, a world leader in sustainable waste and energy solutions for communities and businesses. The agreement designates the company as the Official Energy Partner of the team.
  • Kinecta Federal Credit Union announced a comprehensive marketing multi-year partnership agreement with the LA Galaxy and the team’s home stadium, StubHub Center, in Carson, California. The deal establishes Kinecta as the exclusive financial services partner of the LA Galaxy and StubHub Center. The credit union also will serve as a Founding Partner of StubHub Center and the first-ever naming rights partner of the LA Galaxy’s Torrance, Calif.-based indoor soccer and recreational facility.

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  • Club AméricaToyota is partnering with Mexican Liga MX Club América. The sponsorship includes participation in Tour Águila, the club’s annual U.S. tour. Toyota will bring fans closer to their team through activities featuring players, social content and digital programs and much more.
    “Toyota wants to amplify the fans’ experience by igniting their passion and spirit for the game as they cheer on their favorite teams,” stated Tyler McBride, engagement and event manager at Toyota Motor North America.
  • The Canadian Premier League launched Canadian Soccer Business, a new sports enterprise representing commercial assets and inventory for marquee soccer properties in Canada. The company will start representing all corporate partnerships and media rights related to Canada Soccer’s core assets including its national teams, along with all rights associated with the CPL. Scott Mitchell has been confirmed as the CEO.
  • Kona Brewing CompanyKona Brewing Company has become the official craft beer of the LA Galaxy, by signing a multi-year partnership. As part of it, Kona Brewing Co. will bring the island spirit to Southern California with a Lanai-style bar at StubHub Center.
  • The Chicago Fire Soccer Club named Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing exec Sean Dennison as Senior Vice President, Communications & Media. Dennison will manage all Club communications functions, including soccer communications, public relations, broadcast, social media and digital media.

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

A summary of the most exciting news in soccer marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • Telemundo DeportesTelemundo Deportes presented the second episode of its first-ever, original documentary sports production “Que Momento” on Saturday at 7p on Telemundo. The second instalment focuses on the final 60 seconds of three CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers for Russia 2018 that were played on October 10, 2017.
  • Major League Soccer will face Italian team Juventus during the 2018 MLS All-Star Game, in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Aug. 1. ESPN and UniMas have the broadcasting rights for the game. “Our midseason showcase annually attracts the most prominent clubs in global soccer, and this year our All-Stars will face one of the sport’s most historically successful teams. And we can’t think of a better city to host the game than in Atlanta, which due to the incredible success and popularity of Atlanta United, has rapidly captured the attention of the entire soccer world,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a press release.

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  • Turner announced the launch of its new premium live sports streaming service, “Bleacher Report Live”, in April. B/R Live will implement flexible pricing options, beginning this summer, providing direct access to live games for purchase on an individual or subscription basis. Streaming will include the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, NBA League Pass games, 65 NCAA Championships, PGA Championship, National Lacrosse League, The Spring League, Red Bull Global Rallycross, World Arm Wrestling League and more.
  • LA GalaxyThe LA Galaxy and home stadium, StubHub Center, launched a multiyear partnership with Kinecta Federal Credit Union. The agreement establishes Kinecta as the exclusive financial services partner of the LA Galaxy and StubHub Center as well as a Founding Partner of StubHub Center and the first-ever naming rights partner of the LA Galaxy’s Torrance-based indoor soccer and recreational facility.
  • NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises is launching “El Campeón en Ti” (The Champion Within You), promoting the positive benefits of participating in sports, in partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Alianza U Foundation and local community organizations.
    As the Spanish-language home of the World Cup, the initiative will invest more than a quarter million in focusing its first efforts on soccer, and to expand access to organized soccer for underserved Latino youth.

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

What: Modelo Especial has become the official import beer of the MLS’s LA Galaxy, strengthening its deep connection in the sport.
Why it matters: Combined with official beer status with the UFC, Constellation Brands has positioned Modelo well within two sports (MMA and soccer) that resonate strongly with Latino fans.

Constellation Brands (@cbrands) has announced it has extended and expanded its partnership with the MLS L.A. Galaxy (@LAGalaxyand StubHub Center, making Modelo Especial (@ModeloUSAthe official import beer of the club and stadium. The multiyear deal also includes building a Modelo-branded area atop the west terrace. Modelo will also be a lead marketing partner of the team, which will include co-branding marketing materials, fan merchandise, consumer promotions and fan engagements.

Previously the Modelo Especial brand was the exclusive import beer sponsor of both the LA Galaxy and their StubHub Center home. Given that the San Diego Chargers are also playing in the StubHub Center these days, is more Modelo in the offing for sports marketing?

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With the expansion of soccer, Modelo can continue to tie to a pair of sports, fight sports and soccer, that are truly aligned with Latino culture in the U.S.

In addition to their soccer spends, which also includes a partnership that runs until 2020 with CONCACAF (@Concacafand their events from the the Gold Cup, the Women’s World Cup Qualifying Championship, Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, the Futsal Championship, the Beach Soccer Championship and club soccer’s CONCACAF Champions League, the brand is now tied closely to the UFC (@ufc).

Modelo became the official beer of the UFC at the start of 2018, replacing Bud Light, which had served in the role since 2008. Its “Fighting Spirit” tagline fits well with the MMA culture, and Modelo’s build out for consumer and athlete partnerships is just beginning. With the expansion of soccer, Modelo can continue to tie to a pair of sports, fight sports and soccer, that are truly aligned with Latino culture in the U.S., and their brand loyalty build should continue to escalate as they expand marketshare.

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

cover image courtesy LA Galaxy

What: Veteran industry insider Mario Flores talks about some of the trends in the industry vis a vis Latinos.
Why it matters: Flores has worked with some of the biggest brands on the planet and offers some of his thoughts on the state of Latino sports marketing.

Mario Flores is partner and managing director of Sportivo and a 10-year veteran of Hispanic public relations. Flores (@LatinoSportsGuyhas developed campaigns for clients including Target Corporation, Anheuser Busch, Coca-Cola, Buchanan’s Scotch Whiskey, Tequila Cazadores and Merrill Lynch. Prior to joining Sportivo, Flores served as manager of U.S. communications for McDonald’s Corporation, where he oversaw the company’s national Hispanic-related public relations efforts. Previously he served as director of BSMG Latino, an affiliate of Weber Shandwick, one of the largest public relations firms in the world. Flores began his career with Durazo Communications in Los Angeles.

As a sports business insider, we wanted his thoughts on where sports marketing is with Latinos these days…

Portada: Who are some of the brands you are watching in the Latino sports marketing space this year?

Mario Flores: “Given the change in the demographic makeup and language preference of Latinos, this being a World Cup year and the inaugural MLS season of Los Angeles Football Club (a Sportivo client), there are some intriguing storylines I’m looking at:

Telemundo won the Spanish-language broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournament (previously held by Univision), and have implemented a number of interesting projects. One is a bilingual digital initiative in partnership with global media soccer outlet Copa90 (@COPA90USto search for the next generation of top soccer influencers. No doubt the network understands that they need to appeal to the young, mostly bilingual and English-dominant Latino, to keep the network thriving and relevant.

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For a great amount of time, the LA Galaxy, and for several years, Chivas USA, were the MLS brand in LA. Enter Los Angeles Football Club (@LAFC) with a swagger to match its emblematic black and gold team colors, LAFC’s grassroots approach to community team building and support has been second to none, with a multicultural fan base that was eager to have a team in the center of Los Angeles to call its own. Some soft marketing jabs have been thrown outside the pitch: LAFC referring to the Galaxy as the team from Carson, where their home stadium StubHub Center is located, while LA Galaxy billboards around the city proudly remind Angelenos that they have been “Uniendo (Uniting) Los Angeles” Since ’96.”

If in 2018 you need to find incremental dollars to spend against the Latino consumer, adios.

P: Did you see any important growth around the Winter Olympics in the Latino space in the U.S., and if so, why or why not?

M.F.: “Nada. Most Winter Olympic sports do not resonate with Latinos, so interest is very low. Also, there were not many Latino athletes who competed that the community could cheer for; those that did received very little attention.”

Also read: Why Isn’t NBC Showing Latino Talent in the Olympics?

P: Who are the two or three athletes who are impactful in the space that would surprise people?

M.F.: “Basketball stars like LeBron James and Steph Curry, and to a lesser degree now Kobe Bryant. When we were working with Nike and we went into the Latino community with Kobe, they fully embraced him— they treated him like the superstar that he was. It was also helpful that he spoke Spanish, which the media and fans appreciated.”

P: What’s the most frustrating thing about activation in the space in the U.S.?

M.F.: “Budgets. I’ve been helping brands connect with the Latino consumer for over 25 years, and still the budgets are not there. Brands often tell us that they need to find incremental dollars, and when they do, it’s very minimal and the long-term commitment is missing. If in 2018 you need to find incremental dollars to spend against the Latino consumer, adios.

I also think many brands are just simply missing the mark. I recently spoke with a handful of Los Angeles-based Latino social media influencers who have significant following and not one was invited to any NBA All Star game related activations. What a huge miss in a city with a significant Latino population.”

P: What’s the trend you think will grow effectively in the space that you are watching in 2018?

M.F.: “Brands and media delivering content that is relevant and culturally on point. It’s no longer only about language; its messaging and images that connect at a different level and delivered by what I call ‘cultural cultivators’— trusted influencers who are of the community and from the community.”

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, they’ll meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

cover image courtesy LAFC

What: We talked to Chris Thomas, Director of Digital Media & Marketing for LA Galaxy, about the team’s expansion plans and marketing strategy. He revealed that the team’s main marketing goal is to stay strong and relevant at the local level.
Why it matters: Since its founding in 1996, LA Galaxy has remained the team with the most MLS wins, making it a role model for new teams planning to join the league.

Christopher Thomas
Chris Thomas, Director of Digital Media & Marketing for LA Galaxy (Photo: LinkedIn)

A 2015 Facebook study found that LA Galaxy has the largest number of fans of any MLS team within the U.S. and Canada. According to Chris Thomas, Director of Digital Media & Marketing for LA Galaxy, this may be due to the fact that it is one of the MLS’s first teams and has had more wins than any other team since the league’s inception.

However, its strong position at the national level does not mean that the team can relax when it comes to connecting with local fans.

When we asked Thomas about his strategy for growing the team outside the U.S., his response was clear and compelling: “We do not focus on becoming international—we want to be important locally.”

As an example, he cited teams like Bayern Munich, which have managed to get stronger thanks to their commitment to and relationship with local fans. “The team represents its roots, and that is what needs to be strengthened and maximized before looking beyond its borders,” he said.

We do not focus on becoming international—we want to be important locally.

How are they doing it? The key word is content.

In the last three to four years, the marketing team has focused heavily on digital efforts by creating premium content aimed at their diverse fan base. Thomas did not disclose what percentage of his budget is invested in digital, but he did admit to it being a fairly high amount.

Since the team’s audience is very diverse, the content needs to be varied as well. “We have to be very diverse,” explained Thomas, adding that they do not dwell too much on defining each demographic element of the team’s followers.

They know that their fans are multicultural, that many are young, but also that some of them are older and local, just like the Los Angeles community. “[Our fan base] is representative of LA. You cannot really define it. [That is why] we do not get wrapped up in that,” he explained.

When it comes to generating varied and versatile content, the team’s best allies are its sponsors, or rather, its partners. For example, in partnership with Chevrolet, the team launches its Monthly Mixtape, a video of the best highlights of each month, accompanied by popular current songs.

[Our fan base] is representative of LA. You cannot really define it. [That is why] we do not get wrapped up in that.

LA GalaxyThis type of content appeals mostly to young fans, who are involved with music and trends. At the same time, they also publish longer articles, such as the profile of new coach Sigi Schmid, which are more widely read by the team’s older fans.

That is why, when the team accepts a new sponsor, it looks at brands that “want to work around our story,” Thomas said.

Currently, LA Galaxy has 46 sponsors, making it the team with one of the largest number of sponsorships in the league, including names like Adidas, Chevrolet, Allstate, Herbalife Nutrition, American Express, Corona Extra, Dannon, and Uber. Even this mix of brands shows a balance between innovative and more traditional companies.

The competition

Competing against other sports does not really worry Thomas even though the Galaxy have a new rival in a new stadium, LAFC, coming now as well and the ever-present interest in Liga MX. “We compete against everything: a concert, the beach, the weather. Those are our greatest competitors,” he declared. Nor does he feel threatened by the new teams that will be joining the MLS. By 2022, the league plans to increase its total number of teams from 22 to 28. Thomas thinks it will be exciting to have new opponents to compete against, both on and off the field, in the quest to win fans.

(Feature image: @LAGalaxy)

What: The LA Galaxy presents the largest video display board at an MLS stadium in North Americain partnership with movie studio theme park Universal Studios Hollywood.
Why it matters: This is the first time StubHub Center and the LA Galaxy partner with Universal Studios Hollywood in a multi-year deal that taps the destination as the first-ever theme park partner of the multi-use sports complex in Carson, California.

LA Galaxy names Universal Studios Hollywood as exclusive theme park partner of the club and home stadium StubHub Center. (Photo: Business Wire)The park’s first move as a multi-year partner was to install a 20-feet high and 53-feet wide new video board, which is the largest in professional soccer in North America. In addition, a replica of Universal Studios Hollywood’s iconic globe logo has been put on top of the screen.

“As a global entertainment destination, we continually seek opportunities to showcase our exciting rides and attractions,” stated David Miller, Senior Vice President, Brand Marketing, Universal Studios Hollywood. “This unique partnership with the LA Galaxy and StubHub Center is indicative of our mutual brands’ commitment to providing uncompromised entertainment options for our thrill-seeking guests.”

This unique partnership with the LA Galaxy and StubHub Center is indicative of our mutual brands’ commitment to providing uncompromised entertainment.

The new signage will debut on Saturday, June 17, at the LA Galaxy’s match versus the Houston Dynamo, and will remain at the venue for the length of the partnership, which includes future promotional content across both social and digital media platforms in addition to a range of in-stadium signage to maximize the impact of the partnership for fans.