By Barry Janoff
March 3, 2014: On the eve of the 2014 season, Major League Soccer has signed Chipotle as the official fast-casual Mexican restaurant of MLS and 12 of MLS' 19 clubs.
The sponsorship — which Chipotle said would be its largest single sports partnership — will feature promotional programs with 12 teams, individual players, and programs across the entire league.
Financial terms of the multi-year alliance were not disclosed.
“At the core of our effort to change the way people think about and eat fast food is our commitment to finding better, more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use,” Mark Crumpacker, CMO and chief development officer for Chipotle, said in a statement. “That value is one that is often shared by people with an active lifestyle. This partnership with MLS will allow us to further engage consumers in a sport we have long supported through grassroots efforts.”
Denver-based Chipotle said it would work with MLS and the 12 clubs by "executing unique promotions and activations to reach MLS fans across the country."
Marketing will be anchored by the inaugural Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game during AT&T MLS All-Star Week in Portland this August, featuring the nation’s top homegrown players from MLS Club rosters. Homegrown players from across the league will be chosen by MLS to participate in the game.
Omar Gonzalez, Los Angeles Galaxy defender, two-time MLS Cup champion and a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team, will represent MLS as the first spokesperson of this partnership. A preview spot show Gonzalez in action and offers details about the alliance and the Chipotle MLS Homegrown activations. (See the full spot here.)
MLS said that information on how fans would be able to watch the game would be released at a later date. (Details here.)
To launch the partnership, Chipotle will host a "March to Soccer" promotion in the 12 MLS markets to celebrate the start of the MLS season. Customers who come to a Chipotle location wearing their local MLS club gear on the date of the team’s home opener can receive a buy-one-get-one deal. (Details here.)
The dozen teams are the Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles Galaxy, New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City.
In addition to the Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game, Chipotle will also feature an "exceptional athlete," boy or girl, during ten home games for each MLS club as the Chipotle Youth Homegrown Athlete. Chipotle and each MLS Club will also host free soccer clinics for up to 200 kids utilizing MLS players and coaches to teach soccer fundamentals.
According to David Wright, svp-global sponsorship for MLS, “Chipotle is an incredible brand and has truly embraced MLS’ aspirational position for millions of youth soccer players. We love the idea of the Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game and we look forward to Chipotle playing an important role in continuing to grow the sport of soccer in this country for years to come.”
“Chipotle is an incredible brand and has truly embraced MLS’ aspirational position for millions of youth soccer players."
Other MLS marketing partners include adidas, Allstate, AT&T, Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), Gatorade, The Home Depot, Xbox One, Wells Fargo, Panasonic, Pepsi, Red Bull, Visa and Volkswagen.
Separately, MLS said that its second annual Jersey Week would feature 17 of MLS' 19 clubs unveiling jerseys this week in the lead-up to the opening weekend of the season.
All 19 teams will have at least one new jersey in 2014, with the Portland Timbers being the only club to unveil two new shirts. The San Jose Earthquakes and D.C. United unveiled jerseys earlier this year. (Details here.)
Chipolte said it operates some 1,600 restaurants nationwide.
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